While it might seem a bit disconcerting to the average law-abiding citizen of the United States, narcocorrido has celebrated everything from the smuggling of contraband to drugs from south of the border. The Roots of the Narcocorrido offers a background, in essence, a way to understand why one culture might exalt what another condemns. "El Corrido de Heraclio Bernal" tells the story of one outlaw (Heraclio Bernal) who resisted the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz and pilfered foreign mining interests in Sinaloa. Unlike a common robber, Bernal became a Robin Hood figure. In this way, the Mexican bandit hero isn't really any different than Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" or the popularization of outlaws like Bonnie & Clyde in the U.S. during the Depression. Other figures raised to folk hero status in the narcocorrido included "Mariano Reséndez," another social revolutionary who smuggled goods across the U.S. border. A connection between these figures and future drug smugglers would be made during the late teens and the 1920s thanks to American prohibition. "Los Tequileros" tells the story of how one group of heroic smugglers was cut down by an ambush in Texas. The intercultural conflict between the U.S and Mexico, in fact, made it easy to see these figures -- even outside of a revolutionary context -- as heroic for struggling against a superior power. From here, it was only a small step toward ballads like "The Fugitive, Marijuana," revealing the highs and lows of the drug smuggling life. As always, Arhoolie has put together a solid package, including informative liner notes. The Roots of the Narcocorrido offers a nice backdrop for understanding the drug smuggler as folk hero, but it's also an enjoyable collection of music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.