No peyote tourism, gracias.
The effect and affect of sadness, regret, and lament transcends language. The musical language of the Blues, the unrequited, the sacrifice and betrayal circulates the heartache of universal loss. Not everyone loves the blues as musical genre, but everyone has had the blues—all shades. The blues crosses borders, and like shades and musical notes, language impacts our senses, how we hear. Real de Catorce (The Royal Fourteen), an experimental blues and jazz-oriented rock-and-roll band was founded in Mexico City in 1985.
Founding members included by José Cruz (harmonica, guitar, voice), José Iglesias (guitar), Silvero Viñas Montes (bass), Fernando Abrego (percussion/drums). Over the years, Cruz and Abrego have maintained the continuity of the original formation, accompanied by some of the most accomplished musicians in Mexico.
Real de Catorce is the name of a small pueblo near an abandoned silver mine in the northern part of the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Set in deep in the mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental, the pueblo was made “famous” when Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts filmed The Mexican on the cobblestone streets of what is known in Mexico as a “ghost city”.
The foothills of this section of the Sierra Madre are also the pilgrimage site for the Wixárika (Huichol) indigenous people who walk 500 miles from Nayarit on the Pacific Coast to participate in their spiritual rituals around hikuri – their most sacred plant.
During their tenure of more that 27 years, ten studio albums, two live video recordings, and epic live shows played across Mexico, United States (Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago), and even the then Soviet Union, where the band travelled in 1987 to play a blues festival, Real de Catorce was singular in their creation of an authentic Blues Mexicano. Compositions that invoke the ethereal and material experiences of spiritual practice through music stage the poetic, often erotic and politically provocative lyrics of Jose Cruz. But of course, that is only after you take a listen. You may not understand Spanish (yet) or you may be intimately fluent; either way, you will certain get these blues. Azul (Blue) is their anthem. Check out the artwork on the covers. Oh, and please don’t go to Real de Catorce as peyote tourists.
Cover of eponymous first record, “Real de Catorce”.