Wednesday, February 3, 2010

ROW: Trio San Antonio (Arhoolie)

Norteño music saved my marriage! Well, not really, but it did get me in tight with my father-in-law, an Irishman enamored of all things Mexican and an unabashed accordion fanatic. Our mutual love for conjuntos worked as instant common ground and a painless bonding agent. This set by Fred Zimmerle’s Trio San Antonio just might have been the clincher. Recorded by Arhoolie’s indefatigable Chris Stratchwitz in Zimmerle’s living room in 1974, it’s 22 hard swinging slices of stripped down cancions and polka. Zimmerle’s a decent technician on the accordion, but the real sparkplug of the band is Juan Viesca on bull fiddle. Nicknamed, El Rayo de Contrabajo (The Thunderbolt of the String Bass) he more than lives up to the moniker, slapping the strings and body of his instrument with a piledriver fervency that approximates a love child of Cachao and Mingus weaned on classic rockabilly. Neither Zimmerle nor his compadres are much in the way of polished crooners, preferring to belt out lyrics of loves lost and life’s travails in their best cantina-friendly unisions, but its that unvarnished energy that gives the music its unassailable charm. Just add tequila and lime.

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