Recording information: J. Ravelo Studio Tulare, CA.
Photographer: Esteban Ignatczyk.
Arranger: Juan Ramirez.
In 2005, music journalist Ramiro Burr described the tierra caliente style as "the intermediary between the traditional accordion/bajo sexto norte?o and the big-horn marching-band sound of banda" and as "norte?o, but with a lot more horns." Those are good ways of putting it; tierra caliente has also been described as "downsized banda" and "Sinaloa-influenced music that uses fewer instruments." Whatever definitions one uses, tierra caliente is an attractive sound, and one of its practitioners is Daniel El Noble -- a Michoac?n native who brings a lot of warmth and charisma to his self-titled debut album (which was recorded in late 2005 and released by Fonovisa in the U.S. in May 2006). Tierra caliente has given us a variety of recordings; some artists have favored a crossover approach and combined tierra caliente with everything from dance-pop to reggaet?n. But El Noble is a traditionalist, using tierra caliente for ranchera purposes on appealing tracks like "Me Caiste del Cielo," "Pero Vidita" and "Que Vuelva Conmigo." Those who aren't heavily into regional Mexican music may not be able to tell you that this 32-minute CD is tierra caliente or how tierra caliente differs from duranguense, mariachi or norte?o, but it would only take them a few minutes to realize that el Noble's performances are classically Mexican. And like a lot of Mexican artists, el Noble makes extensive use of the waltz beat; in fact, waltzes have been so prominent in regional Mexican music that portraits of Johann Strauss, Sr. (b. 1804, d. 1849) and Johann Strauss II (b. 1825, d. 1899) -- the Viennese Euro-classical legends who did so much to popularize the waltz -- should be on display at Cinco de Mayo celebrations. "Me Duele" is arguably El Noble's most pop-minded offering, but overall, El Noble celebrates the ranchera tradition on this memorable tierra caliente disc. ~ Alex Henderson