Various Artists

The Devil's Swing: Ballads from the Big Bend Country of the Texas-Mexican Border

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These 19 performances in traditional Tejano styles were recorded in the mid- to late '90s during the making of the documentary film The Devil's Swing, which examines the region where the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos meet. At this point on the Texas-Mexico border, around the towns of Ojinaga in Mexico and Presidio in Texas, the isolation from large urban centers has helped preserve the traditional ballad "corrido" styles that are heard on this CD. On the surface this is just another disc of traditional border music: brisk numbers with soulful vocal harmonies, accordion, and pulsing bass, as well as some sax and occasional drums. Read the English translations (provided in the bilingual lyric sheet) of these Spanish-sung numbers, however, and a darker side emerges. Most of these narrative ballads are in fact the stories of drug trafficking along the border, in which the protagonists often meet violent death and harsh prison sentences. This means you really do need to know Spanish to get the most out of the album, as without knowledge of the lyrical nuances, it just sounds like typical music of the genre. Of course, one could argue that as corridos have always dealt with current events, songs about drug trafficking are not really out of the ordinary, anymore, in this style. Note that while a few of these songs are heard in the accompanying film, this isn't a soundtrack but a collection of performances recorded in the making of the documentary, some of which happened to be used in the movie.

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