El Chapo de Sinaloa

Para Siempre

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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson

Ranchera/mariachi giant Vicente Fernández' Para Siempre (both the album and the hit title track) had such an impact in the regional Mexican market in late 2007 and 2008 that when Ernesto Pérez, aka El Chapo de Sinaloa, came out with an album titled Para Siempre ('Forever") in November 2008, some folks automatically assumed that the title track was a cover of the Fernández-associated song (which was used as the theme for Televisa's popular telenovela Fuego en la Sangre). But the "Para Siempre" that El Chapo performs on this album isn't the Fernández-associated gem -- and besides, El Chapo comes from a different area of regional Mexican music. Fernández, who turned 68 in 2008, is an old-school mariachi/ranchera singer, whereas El Chapo has generally been more modern in his approach to norteño and banda and has favored a craggy, guttural, Chalino Sánchez-ish vocal style. On a technical level, the late Sánchez (also from Sinaloa) never had a great voice; more than once, his vocals were described as "tuneless." But despite his technical limitations, Sánchez was a compelling storyteller -- and similarly, El Chapo has had no problem getting his emotional points across even though he doesn't have a great voice like, say, Fernández, Antonio Aguilar, or Ezequiel Peña. El Chapo's performances, although not impressive on a technical level, have heart; this is evident throughout the banda-oriented Para Siempre. Tracks like "Burbujas de Amor," "Maldito Licor" and "Al Diablo con Tu Amistad" aren't the work of someone who will ever be accused of displaying the most dazzling vocal range in regional Mexican music, but in terms of feeling and emotion, El Chapo's performances get the job done. That is true on the banda recordings that dominate this 42-minute CD as well as on two mariachi tracks: "El Enyerbado" and "Sí, Te Llamé." El Chapo de Sinaloa clearly knows how to make the most of what he has, and Para Siempre is a noteworthy addition to his sizable catalog.

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