Los Cenzontles

Media Vida

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Los Cenzontles' personnel has varied over the years as a group who grew out of the Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center. By the time of this 2001 release, though, they had a pretty stable core of five young members (assisted by a few guest artists), most of them multi-instrumentalists, and including male and female singers. (The number of members is a guess, since five are pictured on the front cover, but six are listed on the back sleeve.) Media Vida is an above-average release of Mexican roots music from several angles. There are a handful of original tunes, not always a frequent occurrence on releases of this type, and there's a spirited verve to the performances that you frankly don't always hear on discs from artists who have been doing the same repertoire for decades. In addition, there's a good amount of diversity in the material, ranging from boisterous up-tempo tunes to rancheras and slow-harmonized ballads spotlighting the woman singers (such as "Flor Indita"). There's also a cleanliness to the production that, far from sterilizing the music, makes it sound less ossified than many a folkloric Mexican release. One standout is "El Cuarto de Tula," where the female lead vocalist (uncredited on the sleeve) soars. "La Realidad" has a bit of contemporary rock production that would make it the one most likely to get picked up for radio airplay, were it even theoretically possible for a song from such an album to make it onto a commercial radio play list on a non-Spanish language station.

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