Rancho Alegre Spotlight – Al Muñiz

Al Muñiz is a character. And at Rancho Alegre, we love characters. We especially like exceptionally talented, passionate characters who have paid their dues in the industry and are doing what they love to do.

Al has an impressive resume. He’s been around for decades, first performing at the tender age of 4, in various genres, from Mariachi to Jazz. Luckily for us, he has followed his heart to Tejano, and is building on his experience performing with legends like Little Joe, Johnny Hernandez, Sunny Ozuna and Freddie Martinez. He also plays damn near a dozen instruments (though he prefers bass), has a tremendous voice (more on that when we get to the specific tracks), produces, arranges, and has his own record label, AM Latin Records.

Recently, Rancho Alegre had the pleasure of making the New Mexico native’s acquaintance through the magic of Facebook. One joke led to another and we decided to review several of his tracks from his 2009 album, Llego El Buen Amigo. Rancho Alegre Radio already had the Buen Amigo single, but we decided to go a little further, and give a good in-depth review of these tracks and his sound. We have also added the other three tracks to the playlist.

Si La Ves

What Frank Thought: Straight out of the gate, Frank comes out with how much he likes the smooth blend of horns and accordion and how neither is drowned out. He notes Al’s mellow voice, which he thinks is made for this type of Tejano.

What Piper Thought: I always listen several times, the first time just getting a feel for it, and then listening critically and looking for something new on subsequent rounds. This incredibly catchy song has been stuck in my head for days, and I’m not tired of it. It has a great beat, the horns are strong, the accordion is bright, the synthesizer isn’t cheesy, and like Frank says, Al’s voice blends perfectly here…it’s just a good song.

Dime Dime
What Frank Thought: Bear with me here. Frank’s immediate reaction to this track was “the greatest song that Gary Hobbs never sang.” He didn’t mean this as an insult to either man, as he deeply respects the talents of them both. What he means is, if you close your eyes and listen, you could picture someone like Gary or even Jay Perez singing this song. And Al pulls it off effortlessly.

What Piper Thought: Very catchy tune as well, and got stuck in my head just as Si La Ves did. Another tight composition, featuring a strong lead guitar that I wasn’t expecting, but it seems to fit pretty well here.

El Solitario
What Frank Thought: One of the things that draws us both to Tejano and Conjunto is the seemingly impossible pairing of sad lyrics set to an uplifting beat. Al does it again with this track. Sung with passion, it reminded Frank of his father, who was also an orphan and he wished he could be around to hear it. A song like this only reinforces the fact that Tejano can do blues and anyone who says otherwise needs to hear this song in particular. It has a lot of pain.

What Piper Thought: I was stuck on how Al successfully and seamlessly blended Conjunto and Orquesta. I kept rewinding and listening for when the horns come in around 0:27. The horns are impeccable.  I wholly concur with Frank, that you can hear his pain, but he emotes appropriately, employing a more reserved Conjunto vocal style. And the female backing vocals are a fine addition you don’t hear a lot in this genre.

Buen Amigo
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had this song on Rancho Alegre Radio since day one.

What Frank Thought: Great classic slow Tejano sound, reminiscent of being in a bar and seeing someone crying and singing. The passionate lead vocals are a true expression of Tejano blues, with the backing vocals blending well. The guitar is superb and not overwhelming or drowned out. This song pays homage to the great slow Tejano ballads for which legends like Augustin Ramirez or Little Joe are known. With a song like this, Al makes us confident that the flag has not hit the ground, but is being carried on.

What Piper Thought: I can hear the echoes of Little Joe. I can see the swaying of other couples on a wooden dance floor under spinning multicolored lights. I can smell popcorn, nachos and beer, and I can feel the warmth of my dance partner next to me as I listen. In my estimation, a perfect slow jam. And the vocals. Good night nurse, the vocals get me. Al’s naturally passionate voice is always fantastic, but he really brings it on this one, giving it a lot of soul. A great performance that makes me pretty weak in the knees, I gotta say.

Wall of Sound

When I listened for things common in each song, I kept getting reminded of Phil Spector, minus the psychoses and bad hair. Every song is multi-layered and meticulously arranged and engineered, creating a full, vibrant experience for the listener.  I also liked his addition of female backing vocals, which complimented his strong voice and weren’t overbearing or shrill.

So, all in all, we love him and we already consider him a Rancho Alegre Radio artist. He joins some pretty good company, and we hope to hear more from him soon. From what we hear from the man himself, he hopes to have a new CD done by June of this year and is “booking dates around the country in various Tejano-supported regions,” so I’m guessing that means Texas. ;) He’s also producing a couple other artists on his AM Latin label.

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