Recording in Spanish is nothing new to Chicano country singer Rick Treviño. The Austin native released his first few albums simultaneously in English and in Spanish, before collaborating with other Latino artists on the Los Super Seven albums. He's taken the musical exploration of his Latin roots one step further on Mi Son, an authentic, inventive take on Mexican and Afro-Latin folk styles. Members of Los Super Seven help out here with rollicking Mexican guitar tracks "El Gustito," "Cupido," and "Echale Tierra y Tapalo." Treviño teams up with Ruben Ramos and Marta Gonzalez for two bolero duets, "La Hiedra," and "Vanidad." Alberto Salas provides solid arranging and great piano work on the Afro-Cuban numbers "Mi Son" and "El Tira y Jala," with Ramon Stagnaro soloing nicely on the double-stringed guitar known as a tres. Mellotron organ and vibes add a special touch to Johnny Ortiz' Puerto Rican-style salsa tune "Ojos," making it reminiscent of great '60s fare such as "Brasil" and Cal Tjader's Soul Sauce album. A final treat is hearing Treviño at his forte as a country singer on a (previously unrecorded!) song by Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, "The Long Goodbye."
What's impressive about Mi Son isn't merely Treviño's mastery of Spanish, it's his mastery of a diverse range of musical languages: the breaking falsetto of Mexican son huasteco, Brazilian ballad, Los Lobos-style country-rock, and salsa's demanding vocal improvisations. Rick's natural gift is his voice, sweet and bracing as a café cubano, but to stretch for this album he also had to engage his ears. He's done his homework, with audible references to Trio Matamoros, Ignacio Piñeiro, Cachao, Larry Harlow, Willie Colon and other landmarks in the history of Afro-Latin music, and subtleties of vocal phrasing that suggest the influence of truly legendary soneros Henry Fiol and Hector Lavoe. Those are big shoes to fill, and while Treviño would probably be the first to admit he's just cutting his teeth, what a wonderful first bite.