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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Los Cenzontles

By Paul-Emile Comeau
Published January 24, 2008

Los Senn-Sont-Less
Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center

If Los Cenzontles, a group based in San Pablo, California, have received national recognition, however slight, it’s mostly due to their two albums on the legendary Arhoolie label. One of these is a compilation drawn from earlier recordings, but both albums feature authentic forms of Mexican roots music—mariachi and conjunto in particular. Now pruned down from a large ensemble to a quintet, Los Cenzontles have chosen to reflect the band's Mexican-American culture by recording its first bilingual album of original songs. Although the musicians' attempt at fusing traditional Mexican music with rock and country and other popular genres from their adopted country is generally successful, one gets the feeling that the group is still wrestling with some unrealized pop potential. Notable guest musicians include Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo and banjo player Bill Evans, but the strongest contribution to the group’s new sound comes from country pedal steel player Bobby Black