Roberto Tapia

El Niño de la Tuna

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Roberto Tapia has switched labels -- from the reggaeton-centric Machete Music to the traditional Mexican powerhouse Fonovisa -- for this, his follow-up to 2008's Los Amigos del M and third album overall. His music hasn't really changed much; it's the same mix of banda and norteño it was last year. He brings a few stylistic quirks to these conservative genres, though. He doesn't oversing or go crazy with vibrato like other, more florid Mexican singers; he enunciates carefully enough that even a first-year Spanish student could follow along, and he occasionally throws small flourishes at the end of a line that fans of soul music might recognize. In a way, these could almost be seen as nods in the direction of a crossover listening audience. So too the mournful, almost bluesy feel of the horns on "Como Me Enganaste" and "Caminos Diferentes." The biggest surprise on this album, though, is "La Tambora," an upbeat dance number that sounds more like merengue than either of the two genres Tapia traditionally works in. Overall, El Niño de la Tuna is a solid album, though it would have benefited from leaning more toward the norteño side of the equation, as the stripped-down, almost country-ish sound offers the context to which Tapia's vocal style is best suited.

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