Charanga Cakewalk Chicano Zen

To term this disc as "Tex Mex lounge” sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it’s another surprisingly fine piece of work by Miguel Ramos, best known for his work with John Mellencamp. The synth sounds that populate this album might have been a recipe for the ripest queso, were they not coupled with some amazingly addictive rolling grooves. Perhaps "rolling” did play its part in this album, sometimes the laidback attitude all around seems herbally inspired. Special guest Lila Downs’ totally slack vocals on "La Miga Hormiga” suit its elliptical harp lines and lightly churned acoustic guitars underpinned by some quietly authoritative 808 programming. As laidback as it gets, this is not a trippy album; the dreaded adjective "organic” comes to mind very often once the guitars and gentle melodies completely unfurl in each tune. Chicano Zen swings easily, even in the electronic polka of "Gloria” or on "Melodica,” which track three sounds like a cumbia-fied version of Booker T. and the MGs’ "Soul Limbo.” That’s the secret to this album’s success; winning, memorable themes and bass lines that stick in the craw long after they’re done. (Music for Mavericks)