Ann Arbor Weather:
Wednesday October 23, 2019
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Santa Cruz River Band

Santa Cruz River Band

Crossing and obscuring the border

by James M. Manheim

From the October, 2007 issue

The Santa Cruz River Band comes from Tucson, one of the cities in the southern tier of states where deep connections with Mexico long predate the current immigration controversy. It's been said that the city's economy stretches 1,000 miles into Mexico, and so does its music. Linda Ronstadt is the most famous representative of Tucson's Mexican-American musical culture, and her family, past and present, includes several musical tradition bearers. Among them is her brother Michael J. Ronstadt, one of the trio that make up the Santa Cruz River Band.

In concert and on the first two of its three albums, the group has mixed songs from both sides of the border easily enough that you temporarily forget it's there. The three musicians sing in English, Spanish, and, on occasion, Arizona's Native American languages. Their original songs and covers are sometimes set in the borderlands: they perform, for example, David Olney's chilling "Women across the River," in which a narrator looks across the border at farm workers who "are as gentle as the dew upon the ground" but "can kill you with their eyes." But they effortlessly weave in songs from other traditions, like John Prine's "Paradise." Their prime criterion seems to be the presence of a good story with resonances beyond itself.

The new Santa Cruz River Band release is The Mexican Album. It's entirely in Spanish, and the material consists mostly of Mexican traditional songs. But in the feel of its straightforward vocals and trio harmonies, elegantly emotional and never over the top, it's not a major departure from the trio's earlier releases. Several of the songs ("La Golondrina," "El Sinaloense") are ones that you may have heard in the background in Mexican restaurants, and it's a joy to hear them without the stylized exaggeration with which they've been overlaid both in Mexican pop traditions and in the American imagination — the band members say that they just recalled songs they heard at campfires and

...continued below...


family gatherings when they were younger, and they sing them naturally. The meanings of the words should yield easily to some high school Spanish or a bit of explanation — they contain a lot of repetition, and their themes of love and of exile go straight to the heart.

The Santa Cruz River Band comes to the Ark — among the few clubs in the state, aside from Latin dance halls, that regularly present the music of Latin America — on Wednesday, October 31.

[Review published October 2007]     (end of article)

 

 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Crime Map
A clickable, zoomable map
Bars And Grills in Saline
Rethinking the Gateway Garden
A new exuberance brightens an iconic Ann Arbor landscape.
Bob & Jorja Feldman
Nightspots: Oz's Music Environment
Health Care - Women's Health
Restaurants with prices Over $30
A clickable zoomable map
Today's Events
Comedy, Storytelling, & Performance Art
Major Events in Chelsea
Being Black in a Small Town
What's it like to be a minority in an overwhelmingly white community?
Julie Halpert
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
A visitor's guide to Ann Arbor