The fact that Ezequiel Peña has, on more than one occasion, posed in sombreros on his album covers (sometimes on horseback!) tells you a lot about his musical outlook. For a Mexican vocalist like Peña, wearing a sombrero is sort of like a power metal revivalist having extremely long hair, or a retro-swing musician sporting a '40s-style hard-boiled detective look -- it might seem stereotypical, dated, and anachronistic to some (how many Mexican artists even own sombreros these days?), but it lets you know that Peña is very committed to his style of music. And that commitment comes through quite clearly on 20 Herraduras de Oro, a best-of collection focusing on the singer's Fonovisa output of the '90s and 2000s. For the most part, Peña's work isn't simply Latin pop with Mexican overtones -- there's nothing wrong with that approach, but Peña is usually a lot more traditional in his outlook. That isn't to say that he is a total purist; some of the gems on this 2004 release (which offers a 20-song, 63-minute audio CD and a bonus DVD containing seven of Peña's videos) were written by Mexican superstar Marco Antonio Solis, who is hardly a stranger to Latin pop. But if Peña makes some pop moves on occasion, 20 Herraduras de Oro is tradition-minded more often than not. Peña's cultural heritage contains people like José Alfredo Jiménez, Alberto Vazquez, and Lola Beltrán, and he wears that heritage like a badge of honor on these inspired, emotional performances (many of which fall into the banda category, although Peña gets into some mariachi and ranchera, as well). Peña's Fonovisa output has been impressively consistent -- most of his Fonovisa releases are well worth owning -- but for novices who are seeking an introductory overview of his work, 20 Herraduras de Oro would be an enriching and logical starting point.
20 Herraduras de Oro Review
by Alex Henderson