Los Cenzontles with David Hidalgo & Taj Mahal: American Horizon

RIYL: Los Lobos, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder

Odds are you’ve never heard of Los Cenzontles (the name translates to “the Mockingbirds”), but they’ve been a major force in traditional Mexican music since forming in 1989. Twenty years and 17 albums later, they’ve teamed up with Taj Mahal and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo (who also worked with the group on last year’s Songs of Wood and Steel) for American Horizon, a sprawling, 15-track concept album that, in the band’s words, “tells a timely story of immigration, work, and the American Dream.” Not the sort of thing you’re going to hear coming out of Sean Hannity’s car stereo, in other words, but if you’re looking for a beautifully moving collection of roots music that literally transcends language, get ready to spend a few weeks curled up inside the restless grooves of this album. You won’t be able to understand the literal meaning of much of it if you don’t speak Spanish, but don’t worry – you only need a soul and a pair of ears to be able to feel American Horizon’s bright strains of joy and sadness. Think of it as a sort of spiritual cousin to the Buena Vista Social Club, and you’ll be on the right track. Mahal and Hidalgo receive second billing, but don’t buy Horizon looking for flashy cameos; instead, their work here reflects a pair of careers spent knocking down musical barriers. It’s one of the most heartfelt – and purely interesting – records we’ve heard all year. (Los Cenzontles 2009)

Los Cenzontles MySpace page
Click to buy American Horizon on Amazon


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