11th October, 1997

Since Los Bukis’ very first appearance in these pages, I’ve used the “regional” tag on both their and Marco Antonio Solís’ songs. If this is the first time it actually sounds directly applicable, that has more to do with evolving standards of identification with Mexican regionalismo than with an actual change in genre. For students of country music, a comparison with, say, the difference between Ronnie Milsap and Randy Travis in the mid-80s might be useful: both of them were certainly country musicians, but Travis’s neotraditionalism helped to spark a sea change in how country identified itself, so that Milsap’s AC-friendly glossiness now sounds hopelessly dated and unreal. Given the increasing visibility of tradition-minded ranchera, tejano, mariachi, and norteño at the top spot of the Latin chart in the mid-late 90s, Solís is just blowing with prevailing winds.

“La Venia Bendita” (lit. “the blessed arrival,” but see below for an in-context translation) takes the hypertraditional form of a ranchera waltz, complete with mariachi horns and two incandescent, sobbing gritos, one right at the beginning and another at the first completion of the chorus. Its traditionalism is entirely understandable: it’s a wedding song. Not explicitly so (explicitly occasional songs are almost universally terrible), but just take a gander at this chorus:

Besame así despacito y alarguemos el destino
Pues este amor tan bonito que se nos dío en el camino
Tiene la venia bendita del poderoso divino

Kiss me so, slowly, and let us prolong our destiny
For this love so beautiful that has put us on the road
Has the blessing of the Divine Almighty

The verses are similarly hyperbolically sentimental (there’s even a reference to the grave the lovers will share in time), but the astringent rhythm and sweet-sour horns cover a lot. Solís being Solís, his melody doesn’t follow traditional ranchera templates — which is good, because his voice isn’t strong enough to tackle, say, a Vicente Fernández song. Still, it’s the first Solís song I’ve unequivocally enjoyed (I’m totally an authenticitymonger, sadface), and I hope he got nice fat royalties out of the millions of walks down the aisle set to it.

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