Various Artists – Smithsonian Folkways, La Bamba: Sones Jarochos from Veracruz

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Joanna Newsom, step aside: this has harp like you’ve never heard it before.

Mexico is a country with many regional music styles, and in Veracruz the harp is king. But instead of a lyrical role, it's played fast and furious, with finger-breaking arpeggios that are as much rhythmic as melodic. That's illustrated perfectly on the opener, the folk song “La Bamba” played as you've never heard it before. But the son jarocho of Veracruz is an old tradition, where the harp and guitar-like jarana and requinto back the voices. There's a visceral thrill to the driving sound that never lets up. It's the music of celebration, for weddings and parties, played with ridiculous skill and boundless energy by this internationally lauded ensemble. Even a slower piece like “La Bruja” is intense and relentless, but when they put the pedal to the metal, as on “Tilingo Lingo,” it's positively virtuosic. For a trio they make a lot of noise — but it's glorious, and also surprisingly addictive, a disc you play again and again.