This collection of recordings on the Discos Smith label from 1960-1975 is the proverbial odd duck. Typically thorough Arhoolie liner notes fill in the details and anecdotal tales of how this label searched for groups little known outside their home regions. Picaflor de los Andes is the only big-name commercial huayno name here -- he pops up on "Capricho Del '64" by Orquesta Huanca and makes his presence felt immediately. But the music here sounds very formal and controlled, with far less of the loopy, lunatic edge that marked the more commercial market-oriented tracks found on Globestyle's Huaynos & Huaylas compilation. The tracks also sound very good, since sound quality was a Discos Smith priority, but the formality of the performances is surprising since the label wasn't on any kind of field recording, ethnomusicology expedition. "Aquel Molalecito" boasts brass band loopiness with near-skank trombone blats and squeaking clarinets that resolve into great cluttered exuberance with handclaps adding to the lunacy near end. But that's an exception here -- the norm is "Tuctu Pillincito," a typical all-string band with some of those inhaled helium high voices, too. "Besos Brujos" is a strong example in that vein, with its harp bassline and violins supporting the voices while a haunting guitar bassline anchors "Para Ti Cholita" before handclaps signal a final burst of momentum. But oddities abound, too. The fifes and drums on the intriguing "Valores de Mi Tierra" evoke similar lineups in Mississippi Delta blues country, and the braying sax and accordion accompaniment to "Palabras de Madre" is definitely unique. Scratchy violins on "Llongote" create a square dance feel so strong that you visualize the dancing, while "Rodeo" and "Verde Hinchu" are downright, down-home strange, with a single relentless pounding drum, violin, and unmistakably Asian-sounding vocals. The boppy "Forasterito" sports radical interval drops and a steadier bassline, while "Noches Sicainas" goes orchestral with a sax solo and an interesting arrangement. "Te Fuistes Sin Despedirme" has a contemporary flair, as electric guitar answers the voice, "Mi Santiago" goes off in stompin' brass band style, and "Entrada Salida de Pampa Cruz" is a fairly bizarre closer with interjected voices and unaccompanied instruments, mostly trumpet. The last pieces are definite divergences from the norm and a little difference goes a long way with a style like huayno. There's a definite form that's usually followed and the sound can grate -- those helium vocals can be hell and they're not even that prominent here. The GlobeStyle collection is still the best entry point, but Peru: Huayno Music, Vol. ll is a strong collection and perhaps more valuable for those looking to find village or regional roots.
AllMusic Review by Don Snowden