Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mariachis Tonight

Whoa. The Winston-Salem Journal ran this short item about Linda Ronstadt headlining Merlefest today, but did they have to run such an unflattering image?

Perhaps all the official, copyrighted publicity photos require explicit permission to run. Well, I have my own photo/press pass at Merlefest this year, so I hope to return soon with some of my own.

That's right, kittens! I'm going to see those folk heroes of the Smithsonian label, Mariachis Los Camperos de Nati Cano, backing Ronstadt, pop icon of my late '70s youth and the only reason I became acquainted with Roy Orbison tunes like "Blue Bayou" (Did you notice how Linda's version puts a triplet backbeat under it, giving it a 'Latin' sway?) You probably already know that Ronstadt has Mexican-American ancestry via her father's roots in Tucson, but her maternal ancestors come from the Midwest, and Ronstadt has two adopted children. Nowadays, the only music she sings is ranchera, and her voice really does seem to be built for it, like on this tune "La Cigarra" originally from a movie by Linda's Mexican singing idol, Lola Beltran:

There's a little controversy about her in the Afro-Latin music world because of a project she commissioned of Barry Rogers, Eddie Palmieri's signature trombonist, shortly before his early death (at age 55) in 1991. There are people who believe disappointment contributed to it, since Barry and his wife, lyricist Lou Rogers, worked 3 years on the project, tailoring it specifically to Ronstadt, getting their friends to play for free on the demos against the promise of a future recording, only to see their work come to naught. I've always been intrigued by these tales of unreleased recordings by Barry Rogers, and widow Lou says she still owns all the rights to this music. She and son Chris Rogers (also a musician) both say the music is "wonderful," and would have been ahead of its time had Ronstadt gone ahead with it, presaging the Latin pop "crossover" boom.

More to come!

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