Roots of Tex-Mex Music: Chulas Fronteras & Del Mero Corazon


Phases and Stages

Roots of Tex-Mex Music: Chulas Fronteras & Del Mero Corazon

(Brazos) When Arhoolie Records pioneer Chris Strachwitz and filmmaker Les Blank teamed up in the mid-Seventies to document traditional conjunto music, there was no fanfare. Few knew the music outside the Spanish speaking lower Rio Grande Valley, the cradle of the music's existence. Nevertheless, the two blazed ahead, driven by the conviction that traditional conjunto is as vital as other U.S. "vernacular" music like the blues, jazz, and zydeco. Their work became two landmark films: Chulas Fronteras and Del Mero Corazon. The Library of Congress eventually selected Chulas Fronteras for the National Film Registry, and both films have gone on to inspire future generations of musicians and filmmakers. A new DVD brings both films to one disc along with previously unreleased footage. The traditional threepiece conjunto -- guitar, bajo sexto, and accordion -- is the centerpiece of both films. With deep respect, the films capture the spirit of the border cantinas, the ranchos, and backyard barbecues where the music is most alive. The goofy, Seventies-style clothing has come and gone, but the music remains resilient. Profiles of the legendary Lydia Mendoza and Narciso Martinez provide an important historical foundation, and bonus footage offers a rare and precious opportunity to hear Mendoza, the "Lark of the Border," sing four of her signature tunes in their entirety, including "Mal Hombre" and "Amor de Madre." Other gems include Santiago Jiménez Sr. performing "Viva Seguin" and "La Piedrera," and performances by José Morante and Los Hermanos Cardenas among others. In an optional film commentary, Strachwitz, Blank, and film editor Maureen Gosling offer amusing "how we got that shot" stories. For conjunto aficionados, Chulas Fronteras and Del Mero Corazon are must-have resources. For the uninitiated, the films provide a heartfelt tribute to the profoundly important Tejano contribution to American roots music.

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