Okay, it's coming on Cinco de Mayo, so it's only logical to do a blog post about something Mexican. But the truth is, I really like the music of Rana Santacruz on its own terms, which are solidly Pan-American. As you will see and hear, Rana is a man who loves loud acoustic instruments like the banjo and the accordion. His tastes are eclectic and he wants his mostly USA-born band members to contribute their ideas as well as their chops. The result is something that is a hybrid in the best sense, cohesive and all-embracing--a marriage of the USA's and Mexico's musical traditions with healthy injections of contemporary songwriting. The songs are ear candy too. They feel like classics although they have been recently written, and I am a sucker for brass lines that soar like wind currents against a sail. ("Cajita de Barro," featured here, makes me glaze over. In a good way.)
With all the brouhaha stirred up by the recent Arizona immigration law, resentments are flaring on all sides. But when I caught Rana at Joe's Pub a few months ago, where he was joined by two members of a New York-based mariachi band in full regalia, I felt good about people, optimistic about the immigrant values this country was built on and I felt a warm link to Mexico. (Me, a non Spanish-speaking New Yorker!) How many musicians, whether intentionally or not, can make us feel that way? So take a break from the politics, and just enjoy the music. And another thing--when you listen to "Cajita de Barro" invite your sweetheart to join you in a waltz. It may not be "hot" or "edgy" but it's romantic as hell without ever being maudlin.
....If you don't have a sweetheart, this song might just get you one.
Here are the translated lyrics to "Cajita de Barro" (Little Clay Box)
In a little clay box you left a piece of your heart
In a little clay box tied up with cloth and thread
And every now and then I tie it close to my soul and it takes away my pain
And every now and then I grab it and say "I'm sorry"
And when the clouds turn off the lights of the sky
and rain starts falling down
In that little clay box I want to take shelter
And I can't hide it any longer, and I must accept
That without that little clay box I don't know what to do
I don't know what to do
And when my eyes shrink and shrink for crying so much
In that little clay box I start looking for something
And when I miss you and think of you in the middle of the night
In that little clay box I find you again
I find you again