Mariachi El Bronx Mariachi El Bronx (I) CD

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Mariachi El Bronx Mariachi El Bronx (I) CD. Personnel: Matt Laughthran (vocals); Vincent Hidalgo (guitar, guitarron, jarana); Joby J. Ford (guitar, ukulele, vihuela); David Hidalgo (guitar, accordion); Ken Mochikoshi Horne (guitar); John Avila (charango, background vocals); Bruce Lee (violin); Brad Magers (horns, background vocals); Jorma Vik (drums, percussion); Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, Alfredo Ortiz (percussion).
Audio Mixers: John Avila; The Bronx.
Recording information: Brandos Paradise, San Gabriel, CA (03/2008).
Photographer: Lisa Johnson.
OK, pay close attention: the Bronx is a punk band from Los Angeles. Mariachi el Bronx is a band that seems -- on this album anyway -- to have in common with the Bronx only its lead singer, though other information seems to indicate that the two bands are normally identical except for the addition of a female guitarron player. The band's self-titled album consists of newly composed pop/rock songs performed in mariachi style, complete with charango, guitarron, trumpets, strings, and guest artists that include Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and album producer John Avila (formerly of Oingo Boingo). How's the music? Consistently excellent, and although it has to be said that singer Matt Caughthran is about a quartet-tone flat most of the time, the passion in his voice and the soaring melodies make it very easy to overlook that fact. Mariachi music is all about the thrill of heartbreak and longing, and that's exactly what is communicated here (regardless of the actual lyrical content) on highlight like "Despretador," "Litigation," and "Cell Mates." "Sleepwalking" features a loping, off-kilter rhythm, while "Clown Powder" is a blocky waltz with a subtly anguished "You can't go home again" lyric, and "Holy" features a charming spaghetti western feel. This album is that rarest of pop commodities: a party album supreme that also rewards close listening. ~ Rick Anderson


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