Ezequiel Peña

El De Nayarit

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Norteño has not been a major focus for Ezequiel Peña, who is much better known for his contributions to banda and mariachi. But it's a style that the charismatic Mexican singer embraces with pleasing results on El de Nayarit -- at least some of the time. On "Beso a Beso" and "Amigo Mio," Peña sounds perfectly at home in an accordion-powered norteño/Tex-Mex environment. But this 2005 release is far from all-norteño projects, and Peña also includes his share of banda and, to a lesser degree, mariachi. Some might wonder if perhaps he should have stuck to norteño on El de Nayarit; in the past, there have been many opportunities to hear Peña performing banda and mariachi -- and while this 29-minute CD gives us an appealing taste of his norteño potential, it doesn't move far enough in that direction. But in terms of diversity, El de Nayarit is a winner. Peña is as convincing on the mariachi of "Murio la Flor" and the banda of "La Gitanilla" and "El Alazan y el Rocio" as he is on the disc's norteño selections. One of El de Nayarit's most intriguing tracks is a banda arrangement of Eduardo Márquez Talledo's Peruvian waltz "Nube Gris" ("Grey Cloud" in English); demonstrating banda's flexibility, Peña has no problem making a South American standard relevant to regional Mexican music. Considering how well he fares on "Beso a Beso" and "Amigo Mio," one hopes that Peña will continue to explore norteño on future efforts -- imagine the possibilities of Peña recording an entire album with los Huracanes del Norte or los Rieleros del Norte. For that matter, Peña would probably fare well if he decided to provide a duranguense project. But El de Nayarit is a rewarding, if brief, demonstration of the singer's ability to embrace a variety of Mexican styles -- one that isn't without its share of surprises.

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