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A Taste of Texas – Mingo Saldivar y sus Tremendos Cuatro Espadas

Rounder Records 821 616 105-2
Driving from San Diego to Cabo with family friends, I became unwittingly
acclimated to musica ranchera. Actually, I did have a choice between
the indefatigable beat of Mexican music or listening to Madonna’s
"Immaculate Collection" all the way through again. Either the heat, the
water, or Madonna would start to bother me, resulting in some version of
Montezuma’s Revenge. So I took my chances with music I could not comprehend
lyrically, but a beat I found equal parts irresistible and irritating.
It was somewhat like the chili reyenos I craved from Mulege, a diminutive
village conveniently situated halfway between San Diego and Cabo and which
had once been a Spanish Mission. Despite the etiolated church and decaying
buildings, the oasis and palms that sprung out of the desert in Mulege were
a neon "welcome" sign for those chili reyenos, which I ate until I became
pale. In the restaurant I would regularly hear the music again, the orotund
bass and the accordion bellowing the melody, which certainly didn’t help my
health. Besiege even the most vigilant laager with shots of tequila in a
fifteen-year-old body and a continuous rhythm, and of course the young
gringo will start dancing and clapping, eventually ending in the arms of a
noisome lady.
Which has nothing to do with Mingo Saldivar except the issue of musica
ranchera. Saldivar’s music, the common agglomeration of German Polka and
Spanish rhythms, doesn’t sound much different from the host of other acts
frequenting a throng of Mexican radio stations. But Saldivar has become a
treasure for Mexico and Texas because he has continued to perform his art at
a continuing zenith: some damn exponential graph which has an arrow at the
end of the line implying "infinite progression".
Meaning he doesn’t simply play the same beat over and over. Much like his
squeeze box sibling, Buckwheat Zydeco, he has decided to assimilate and
meld, conflate and create, to arrive at a sound unique with the pleasures of
dusty esplanades and chipoltes in adobo — an expert who uses an accordion,
a bajo sexto, bass, drums and vocals rather than a laser to reach a point of
perfect symmetry.
No one else would have the intestinal fortitude or precise knowledge to
perform a ranchera version of Bill Monroe’s "Blue Moon of Kentucky,"
or Johnny Cash’s "Folsom Prison Blues". However, one should not purchase
A Taste of Texas for the novelty of the cover songs alone, but
instead for the chance to madcap curvet to "Un Poquito de Amor", "Old
Chicano", and my personal favorite, "Mexi-Cajun Cumbia". While you’re at it,
go grab a case of Casta Cerveza Triguera, a modicum of limes, and some chili
reyenos, then it might all make sense.

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