Santiago Jiménez, Jr. y su Conjunto
El Corrido de Esequiel Hernández
Arhoolie (

cd cover This release confirms the vitality of an enduring corrido tradition along the Texas-Mexico border, the folklorization of actual events. San Antonio's Santiago Jiménez Jr. (namesake of the conjunto accordion legend and Flaco's younger brother) transforms a brutally senseless episode of the "war on drugs" into an acerbic work of oral history and social commentary. On a May evening in 1997, Esequiel Hernández, an 18-year-old high school student, was herding his goats near Redford, Texas, a village on the Rio Grande. As was his custom, Hernández carried an old rifle to protect the herd, which provoked a US Marine - one of 2,000 heavily armed troops assigned to border patrol duty - to shoot and kill the young US citizen as a suspected drug smuggler. In the genre's biting, deadpan style, "El Corrido de Esquivel Hernández" narrates the inexcusable tragedy, and the national response that forced the troops' withdrawal from the border. Jiménez also offers a second corrido of his own composition, along with a mix of boleros, canciónes, cumbias, polkas and rancheras typical of the conjunto repertoire. He maintains a sprightly connection with the more traditional realm of the two-row button accordion and the throaty conjunto vocal style, harmonizing with Victor Mermea, who also plays bajo sexto. Backed by an able rhythm section, bassist Ruben Valle and drummer Rufus Martínez, Jiménez's nimble, immediately recognizable accordion style reminds us that conjunto's topical compass never takes it far from its South Texas roots in the region's social dancing tradition. - Michael Stone


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