Vanguard Records Rare is the recording that regresses from a band's previous efforts yet emerges better for the hearing, but such is Quetzal's fourth effort, Worksongs. Employing the sonorous son jarocho sounds of Mexico's Caribbean-influenced east coast (which have governed Quetzal's artistic philosophy since they were performing pro bono at Chicano UCLA rallies during the mid-1990s), this Eastside troupe retreats from the bit-too-rocked-out nature of 2002's Sing the Real and delves soul-first into an undertaking imbued with the sweat of Veracruz. Rather than use son as an attractive gimmick, however, Quetzal posits the genre's instruments at the centerpiece of their brilliance. Witness the pulsing requinto lead that emerges through the urban swirl of the opening "This Is My Home" and aids the tut-tut of the stomped-upon tarima in the stealthy "Planta de los Pies." Feel the cajón thuds on the sadly inspirational "Limones Agrios" (a dedication to lead plucker Quetzal Flores' late grandfather). Hear the jarring jarana strums in every track, soaring above other instruments like the bird whose name Quetzal carries. The result is a whirling mishmash of centuries-old styles and modern chord progressions, at once proud of the present, yet looking bravely backward. Other Quetzal characteristics continue to stand out on Worksongs–lyrics that are progressive without being preachy, crying violins, and the titanic proclamations of brother/sister combo Martha and Gabriel González–and all of it unites into the latest reason not to forget East Los Angeles when listing the country's liveliest music scenes.
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