Various Artists

Borderlands: From Conjunto to Chicken Scratch

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Subtitled "Music of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Southern Arizona," this compilation of 18 tracks from the late 1940s through the early '90s illustrates several aspects of border music. Conjunto music is well-represented, as expected, along with other strains of the Tejano sound that aren't quite as reliant on the usual accordion-dominated arrangements. The great Lydia Mendoza is represented with one of her best recordings, the 1954 bolero "Aunque Me Odies," and Beto Villa Orquesta with Carmen y Laura do a bolero-mambo that's more pop-oriented (in a good way) than the usual Tejano harmony number. The last five tracks are by Native Americans from Southern Arizona, who play "chicken scratch" with casual similarities to the conjunto played by Tejanos, although the arrangements give greater prominence to fiddles and saxophones. This has more variety, and higher quality, than the usual Tex-Mex/conjunto/Tejano/border music compilation, and is recommended to those who want a good sampling of some of the better stuff. Comes with copious annotation.

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