CULTURE: Cenzontles with David Hidalgo and Jackson Browne

This weekend I spent time in a recording session with Los Cenzontles (the Mockingbirds), along with David Hidalgo, of Los Lobos, and singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, as they recorded the band’s new CD, Regeneration.

An amazing time. Many thanks to Eugene Rodriguez, of Los Cenzontles, for inviting me. I’d never watched a record get made, let alone with two of my musical heroes. We had chats about music, about immigration, New Orleans and Bob Dylan. They now all have my book. :\) Read on, guys!

Los Cenzontles are an amazing story. The brainchild of Eugene and Astrid Rodriguez, they’re a Mexican roots band that spawned a youth center in San Pablo, near Berkeley, and which in turn spawned an expansion of the band.

Cenzontles now have several CDs out and have played with other roots music heroes of mine – Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, in particular.

I felt a little dazed to be around these guys. Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky was one of the soundtracks to my 1970s and his voice remains once of the most distinctive in pop music, I think. (He also has the good taste to continue to play with Claremont’s own master instrumentalist, David Lindley; their Love is Strange CD is very greasy.)

Los Lobos were the band I listened to most in the 1980s. Hidalgo is a deeply musical cat, I always thought, and his tenor voice remains one of the greatest in rock n roll. (For the coolest grungy garage band tune, listen to Georgia Slop.)

I turn to both guys’ music often.

The three songs they recorded sounded like the best of good music — sweet and raw: Adios California, a ranchera in Spanish, The Silence, an elegant song about the drug violence in Mexico, with a sweeping vocal by David Hidalgo, and Jackson Browne adding the harmonies; a third song, collaboration among the band, Browne and Hidalgo, is about the border, which Browne is singing, but isn’t finished and is untitled. Still, so far, it sounds great.

The band will be raising money to complete the album and I’ll post more when they do. Hopefully, by then they’ll have a chunk of The Silence I can put up. Either way, can’t wait to listen to Regeneration.

Meanwhile, what’s your favorite song by any of these guys?



Filed under Culture, Los Angeles, Southern California

2 Responses to CULTURE: Cenzontles with David Hidalgo and Jackson Browne

  1. I’ll list my top three Los Lobos covers:
    –Bertha — Grateful Dead
    –Just Across 110th Street — Bobby Womack
    –Volver Volver (pub dom)

  2. Eloy Gutierrez

    Favorite song? an impossibility with this line up! Top three for Los Cenzontles (not including traditionals). The favorite depends on the day:

    Good Morning Aztlan (Raza de Oro) – for waking up
    Quaking Giant (Instrumental w David on Songs of Wood and Steel) – for rocking out
    Tu Sonrisa (los senn-sont-less) – for instrument layers and hypnotic harmonies

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