Alicia Villarreal

La Jefa

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Since the mid-'90s, as the vocalist of the Tejano outfit Grupo Límite, the vivacious Mexican diva Alicia Villareal has made her mark in the somewhat hombre-dominated field of norteño. Her rich, quavering alto, passionate delivery, and spunky, cigarello-chomping persona have won over crowds and critics, and her post-millennial solo albums have consistently emerged on both the Latin charts and the mid- to lower echelons of the pop charts. On her sixth studio album, the "Chief" trains her steely attention less on the eclectic, pop-tinged material that has distinguished her solo work, and more on the trad Mexican fare -- bouncy rancheras and sanguine ballads -- of her earlier career. Accordions and tubas dominate the arrangements here, undergirding lovely melodies that make full use of Villareal's expressive and often sultry voice. Standouts include the catchy single "Caso Perdido" and the aching "Anoche," on which Villareal sings with a compelling, windblown abandon.

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