La Marisoul and Los Texmaniacs Join Forces On 'Corazones and Canciones'
On April 7, GRAMMY-winning artists Eva Marisol “La Marisoul” Hernández (of LA-based band La Santa Cecilia) and San Antonio-based Tejano conjunto Los Texmaniacs will release their next album, Corazones and Canciones, together on Smithsonian Folkways. A 15-song collection of generation-spanning Mexican-American classics from all over the US (Los Canciones), the album celebrates the love, joy, and the ineffable feeling that music can evoke, while simultaneously shining a light on the importance of Mexican-American music within the overall American Roots tradition. This music makes clear that Mexican-American music is American music with life-affirming energy and passion. Ranging in sound from dancehall and conjunto polka-beats to romantic Tejano guitar (all accented by La Marisoul’s booming, soulful vocals, and Los Texmaniacs’ exuberant playing), each song was chosen for its heart, emotional potential, and ability to connect people across age, place, and time (Los Corazones).
While working on Corazones and Canciones, one of the feelings that La Marisoul and Max Baca, Los Texmaniacs’ Albuquerque-born, San Antonio–based leader and bajo sexto maestro, aimed to capture was the sense of belonging that being part of the extended Mexican-American community can bring. Though they are not related by blood, La Marisoul and Baca (and the rest of Los Texmaniacs) were deeply inspired by that specialness of being Mexican-American and that sense of community – of being “primos” (cousins). La Marisoul said of her fellow Mexican-American musicians: “They make me feel like I belong to something now. I have my primos, Los Texmaniacs.” Though they may be from Albuquerque, while La Marisoul was born, raised, and lives in Los Angeles, “they mix it up, too, and we’re related, you know? And I love that … I’m a sister from a different mister.”
In evoking that sense of belonging, La Marisoul and Baca also made sure to represent the diversity of Mexican-American people and culture, celebrating the idea of a rich community while rejecting that of a monolith. In that sense, at its core, this is an album that is deeply American – emblematic of the Melting Pot nature of a nation of immigrants, and the way that American folk music has developed over time to be an amalgamation of regional styles, languages and dialects, traditional instruments, and more. La Marisoul said “There’s borders and things that tell us where we are, but the music is happening here, so it’s just as American as it is Mexican and Tejano and Californiano, and it’s beautiful. I think that’s one of the special things about living in the United States. A lot of worlds can fit here, and it’s built on that. It’s built on muchos mundos, mucha gente de muchos mundos [many worlds, many people from many worlds], so American music can also be in Spanish, can also have a Tejano conjunto swing, you know? In the end, what we’re making is American music.”
When making the selection of which American roots songs to cover on the album, making sure to represent that diversity within Mexican-American music was the easy part. Choosing the songs with the most emotional power, the most heart, was the real work. For Baca, the songs needed to be classics—songs that have been around for generations because they have touched people’s deepest feelings, and people in turn have made them part of their lives and poured their sentiments into them. “Everything that we did in this whole project is done with the heart and soul, because of the passion and love we have for this music. . . . The corazón is the heartbeat; everything comes from the heart. If you’re not doing it from the heart, then you have no business doing it.”
The final fifteen tracks cover emotions and experiences both personal and universal, juxtaposing songs of joy with grief, heartbreak with love, and sociopolitical with sultry. Some songwriters’ work appears several times throughout: La Marisoul and Max share an affinity for the music of the late Mexican singer-songwriters Cuco Sánchez (José Refugio Sánchez Saldaña), and feature two of his songs on the album, while there are five originally by José Alfredo Jiménez (José Alfredo Jiménez Sandoval). For Baca, Jiménez is simply one of the all-time greats, “He’s awesome, man, and everything he writes is a hit,” and for La Marisoul, it was an exciting opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her inspirations, the female giants of música ranchera (country music), for whom Jiménez’ music has long been a favorite to cover.
Other cuts on the album run the gamut, from the loneliness of “Amarga Navidad (Bitter Christmas)," a song for those feeling blue during a time of prescribed cheer, to the social meaning of “Las nubes (The Clouds).” Though its lyrics make no reference to labor movements or civil rights, “Las nubes” was recorded by Little Joe Hernández in the 1960s and went on to become not just an anthem embraced by the farmworkers’ labor movement, but an anthem of the Chicano civil rights movement overall. And on the special rendition on Corazones and Canciones, now 82-year old Little Joe himself returns to make an appearance on the track, adding his signature voice and yells to the mix. Baca expands on “Las nubes” and its significance: “That’s a hallmark, trademark song for the migrant farmworkers … Little Joe (José María de León Hernández) recorded this, and I remember during the César Chávez campaign, this was the theme song for them.” Still a favorite (and a tear-jerker) for the Tejano community, “It fits in with the concept for the rest of the album: classic, heartfelt songs.”
La Marisoul summed up her and Los Texmaniacs’ intentions for the album: “I’m a storyteller—and a provoker. I want to provoke something, like feeling, because we’re human. We need to feel that we’re alive, because, man, that’s all we have—life, you know?”