2019 marks the 26th anniversary of Intocable, Zapata, Texas's favorite musical sons. Percepcion, their 22nd album, finds the kings of Tejano/Norteno fusion delivering their signature meld of rocking conjunto, norteno rhythms, and folk ballads all sewn together with hooky pop melodies, with a new twist provided by producer and Blue Note boss Don Was. It's a first for both parties as Intocable have until now experimented musically with all kinds of sounds from country (on the unfairly maligned 2006 date Crossroads: Cruce de Caminos) to vintage Texas and Mexican R&B to Western-styled roots rock. Was had never worked with a Tejano band. He was as much a student and music fan as a guiding hand in the studio. He understood implicitly that singer/accordionist Ricky Munoz and company -- with a large, engaged following across the Americas -- didn't need him to succeed; they chose him because he is subtle, attentive, and open-minded, and he asks questions before he offers opinions or answers. (The band called him "Yoda.")
Percepcion collects 14 new tracks, most penned by popular songwriters Joss Favela, Luis "Louie" Padilla, and Wilfrido Castillo. "No Van Entender" opens with a rumbling tom-tom and kick drum before a cut-time snare careens in with a shuffling norteno beat. Munoz's accordion dances around the strummed acoustic guitars and thrumming electric bassline and delivers Favela's poetic lyrics in a love song that acknowledges brokenness and loss, and affirms itself in the moment as a chance worth taking. "Quédate Conmigo" is a rocker worthy of Los Lobos, complete with R&B shuffle, popping tom-toms, and Munoz popping the chord voicings on his accordion. "Nunca Volveras," by Pablo Preciado, is among the most tender, smoldering ballads Intocable has ever recorded. "Que Voy Hacer" walks the line between Mexican cumbia and bluesy norteno. "Después de Quererte" is dancehall corrido at its best, while "Beso Incompleto" flirts with old-school '60s pop and country rock with the accordion engaging in call and response with the bajo sextos as Munoz's sweet, perfect tenor croons passionately over the top with subtle sonic effects framing the backdrop. "Dimelo Frente" is another fingerpopping number with Munoz delivering one of his squeezebox solos, before entering with the sultry lyrics. Throughout, these songs are imbued with lithe, canny, textural touches that add depth and warmth: The experimental drum sounds on "Te Soledad la Mia," and the shimmering reverb on the heartbreaking "Por Alguien Mas" with its salsa breakdown in the bridge, are just two examples of the kind of near-symbiotic union at work here. Was is perfect for Intocable; he doesn't just get the music, he gets the band; they, in turn, respect and trust him. Percepcion follows the wonderful Highway by three years, and as such it's not only a worthy successor, but one of the finest albums in their catalog.