Performance: Heartfelt, but . . . Recording: Excellent"Mas Canciones," Linda Ronstadt's second collection of traditional Mexican songs, is yet another attempt to make the mariachi music that she loves so well a vibrant and contemporary musical form. But although her ringing falsetto, pure chest tones, and thrillingly potent vocal performances are a pleasure to hear, these presentations often fall flat.
The album begins with Tata Dios (Father God), a stark and harrowing song in which a dying woman tells her husband to waste no time with medicine, to hurry and dress her in her wedding gown for her imminent meeting with God. Ronstadt gives it a fine, spine-tingling rise, and the mood for the album seems to be set. But from there on, she settles for mere prettiness backed by formal orchestral arrangements and by the adequate, if not remarkable, ensemble singing of her brothers Pete and Mike. In a couple of songs, Gritenme Piedras del Campo (Scream to Me Stones in the Field) and El Crucifijo de Piedra (The Crucifix of Stone), she does indulge in an outpouring of emotion and grandstanding vocal leaps (so much that you want to yell, "Get a grip, girl! There's plenty of horny señors out there!), but most of the time there's a guidebook quality about her deliveries. One imagines her standing stock still in front of the microphone, with no ruffling of her petticoats or stamping of her feet in anger, and certainly no rushing of the beat or racing the orchestra home for a dramatic end. In short, Ronstadt may have Mexican blood in her veins, but it took a siesta when she recorded this album. She has made ranchera music into an antique, as colorful and quaint as Tiffany glass and about as relevant today as a souvenir sombrero.