Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
on 30 April 2011
Like the lead reviewer, I have mixed feelings about this album. In part however, I accept the blame for this. I read a bit about the album in the press and, as soon as I saw the CD in a record store, I bought it. I was mistakenly under the impression that it was a Ry Cooder project featuring the Chieftains whereas it's actually a Chieftains project featuring Cooder (and Cooder's on-album role is relatively small though one is led to believe that he was largely responsible for rounding up the excellent Mexican contributors which, if true, is credit-worthy). I've several Cooder albums in my collection though I don't automatically like everything he does. I have nothing from the Chieftains other than their collaboration with Van Morrison from way way back. But I've nothing against them (or Irish traditional music in general).
That's my background. With regard to the contents of the album, over two thirds of the songs come from the many and varied, Mexicans and almost all of these are traditional. I enjoyed many of these although I did sometimes find the presence of Paddy Moloney's whistle or pipe, a tad irritating. Sorry if that offends any Irish readers. Perhaps this is due to my lack of exposure to Paddy's charms. I would single out the tracks by Lila Downs, Chavela Vargas and Los Tigres Del Norte as highlights for me.
Although several reviewers have referred to the blending of Irish and Mexican as successful, I have to say that I was less convinced. There were parts, particularly in the Finale where I felt chunks from different cultures were just stuck together without a lot of thought given to the outcome. And I did want this to work.
Cooder's two contributions are good, with the first one, "The Sands of Mexico", being one of the very few tracks which relates to the theme of the album. His second number, an instrumental with backing only from Van Dyke Parks, is lovely.
I was puzzled by the contributions of Carlos Nunez. With no disrespect to his musicianship, I didn't see how, coming from a Galician background, he related to the overall theme. I did wonder if he was one of Paddy's mates!
In general I felt that there was just not enough on the album which related to the story of Los Patricios. Unlike, say, Cooder's "Chavez Ravine", or, Tom Russell's "The Man from God Knows Where", the story line is given minimal attention. Which is a pity. The album could have been much better.
So, as the old saying goes, to me this is a curate's egg. Some parts are very good; other parts are not so good.