Los Super Seven
Before there was NAFTA, there was the music. Along the steamy Rio Grande, where Texas rubs its rump against Mexico, the two cultures occasionally commingled and slow-danced in the heat of the night. Their bastard child, Tex-Mex music, has often been sniffed at by 'serious' music fans on both sides of the border, but a group of top-flight musicians have assembled to celebrate the music they heard as children, performed by down-and-out musicians on the streets and in the watering holes of their hometowns.
The Mexican-American assembly of stars calls itself Los Super Seven and gets the heart of the music right. The playing and recording is so immaculate that the music seems unlike other recordings of the genre, yet neither is it as inaccessible and sterile as a museum piece.
The group consists of David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, Tex-Mex veterans Freddy Fender and Flaco Jimenez, Texas rocker Joe Ely and country star Rick Treviño. At times, the work seems like a follow-up to Los Lobos's La Pistola Y El Corazon, which explored regional Mexican music. Several of the tunes here explore northern Mexican music, but the vision is wide enough to comfortably include Jimenez's bouncy Tex-Mex beats on "Margarita," and Ely's version of Woody Guthrie's sad ballad, "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportee)."
On songs such as Cesar Rosas's "Un Beso Al Viento," the mood is unabashedly sentimental, with singers yelping from heartache. The over-the-top emoting is tempered not with a cynical tongue in cheek, but with a wink at the inevitable absurdity of the heart. The musicians handle the traditional acoustic instruments deftly, making this overlooked music shine as brightly as more-contemporary challengers. This is one of those rare records that fairly glows from the collective enthusiasm generated by the assembled musicians. Even when a song's narrator is crying from love's fevered pains, the vibrancy of the group's playing still lifts the listener's spirit. - Marty Lipp