It ain’t some chest-thumping, dumbed-down recycled-classic-rock with a yella-dog-in-a-pickup-truck-with-a-red-hatted-good-ol-bubba making Merica meth again. It ain’t the scratchy skirl of a Scottish fiddle playing a weathered tune, it ain’t the trip-skittle of hard bop, not the altered states of a Mahler mind-field, not The Beatles, no Nirvana, and it sure as fuck ain’t the latest auto-tuned non-entity sliding across the charts of lucre.
You wanna hear America right now? This is it. Folk ‘n’ urban, sweet as candy, and ready to cut you. Chico’s Brother, harmonious and alienating, narrative and nonsense, avant-ghetto, is the expression of Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, resident of Mansfield, Ohio, and elsewhere. He’s a stew of ethnic and cultural storms, rich in voice, startlingly open and maddeningly elusive, like everything and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz is Chico’s Brother, the prince of Midwestern avant-ghetto. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pfahler.)
I was shaken today when I went up to the northern Ohio town of L_____ to do some research for a history talk I have coming up next month. So often people complain about Mansfield, but today I saw a town tottering on its last legs. Imagine the worst blocks in Mansfield going on for entire neighborhoods, to the vanishing point. Street after street of abandoned, falling-down houses, mold-filled forgotten churches, a homeless shelter shutting down because the building is eroding around them.
It’s stark out there, my friends.
What we have already done down here to bring life to this little town on the hill is vibrant and nothing short of astonishing. I don’t know if it is enough to cut through the rising red-hatted dark tide, I don’t know if it can spark the dead eyes like those I saw strewn around L_____ today, but I want to try. I want to do something. Maybe I’m not much more than some joker that spews pretty words. Or maybe it is more. Maybe I do things & we all do things with words and images and sound that heal wounded people. It’s what I have to give, and this blog is another way to give it. I’m grateful for the chance to make somebody’s—anybody’s— life a little less dark.