Trio Los Montalvinos - Amor De Madre (Riney 1462)
Amor De Madre
It's hard coming back this time, man.
Sitting here listening to the winter winds howl outside my door, staring glumly at the grey slush that has enveloped my home town, my mind drifts back to the time I just spent down in the Caribbean...
Yes, as you may know, I love me some Puerto Rico. Truly a 'continent' unto itself, this island is as enchanted as they say it is. From the coffee plantations high in the mountains, to colorful seaside towns that move at their own pace, there is nothing better than forgetting about your GPS for a while, and losing yourself in somebody else's world... know what I mean? Like I said, I'm having trouble re-inhabiting my own.
I admit it, I'm a dreamer.
I've been spending the last few 'Carnaval' seasons down in the incredible Colonial city of Ponce, a place where magic lives. As we've talked about in the past, they've developed their own parallel Mardi Gras experience, built on the same West African traditions that enlivened Congo Square in New Orleans. From the impromptu 'second-lines' that form behind uniformed brass bands in the streets, to the pre-lenten masked balls, to the colorful costumes of the Vejigantes, the similarities are indeed striking.
This year's festival was the city's 150th, and the joint was jumpin', let me tell ya! As the traditional Bomba built in intensity, the crowd steadily increased, filling the central plaza to capacity, with everyone pushing for a better view along the parade route. Amidst the tantalizing aroma of bacalaitos and Medalla, my family and I staked out a great spot and just soaked it all in as the city put on its biggest and best show ever. An absolutely amazing spectacle, the parade continued on well into the night...
Above all else, it's the sound that grabs you. The depth of emotion expressed by everyone from the smokin' high school bands to the guys that pump the salsa through oversized speakers on the roof of their car, tells you that this is a nation that loves it's music. Music that comes in many shapes and sizes.
Like today's unreal selection.
If you've been with me a while, you know that I could never leave Ponce without paying a visit to Tita's Record Shop. Once again, this remarkable woman dug through the crates and came up with a time capsule of a stack of vinyl from the golden age of 'Los Trios' that I got to bring home with me. As I've said before, this is the music that captivates me the most when I'm down there, transporting me to a land of mystery and imagination as I tune it in through the static on my little AM radio... I have no clue who the Trio Los Montalvinos might have been, but this plaintive paean to their mothers' love just knocks me out.
I had always assumed that this type of bolero was a thing of the past, a fading relic of simpler times. Imagine my surprise as my brother and I stumbled into a bar in Ponce after the parade and heard this same authentic music coming from a makeshift bandstand set up in the corner! As it turns out, it is very much alive and well, a fact which was brought home to us by the simply wonderful Trio Romance.
The Trio (with the addition of a top-flite drummer) sang their hearts out that night (competing against the Super Bowl, which was blaring from about eight TVs), in the beautiful three part harmony that is at the 'corazon' of the genre. The ongoing conversation between a big fat hollow body Gibson (that somehow handled both bass and rhythm) and the traditional ten string Cuatro was indeed 'the real thing'... The Trio Romance plays every Sunday night at El Patio Colonial in Ponce. You know, they have a saying down there which, roughly translated, goes something like; "Ponce is Ponce - everything else is Parking."
I can relate to that.
...as I sit here some 1500 miles away, freezing my ass off. Somebody remind me again why it is we live up here in the first place!
Yeah, I know, I've just gotta get back into the swing of things and all of that... it just seems a little bit harder every year.
Una vez más, amo mi Puerto Rico!