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La Granja [Deluxe Edition]
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The kings of norteño music return with their 512th album (give or take), their first disc of new material since 2007's Detalles y Emociones, which found them moving into some unexpected territory (releasing the song "El Muro," sung in multiple languages). That was followed by 2008's Raices, a set of classic Mexican songs transformed into norteño, and a live album. But based on this evidence, the four Hernández brothers and cousin/drummer Oscar Lara were hardly coasting. As regular as clockwork or the steady, polka-like norteño beat, this album offers a dozen new songs dealing with love, crime, and the immigrant experience. There are some surprises -- "Como la Vida Sin Fútbol" features almost rap-like vocals and an unexpectedly aggressive beat supporting a humorous lyric about soccer fanaticism (including the noise of a cheering crowd and a game announcer). But for the most part, Los Tigres del Norte rose to their position at the top of the norteño heap by delivering exactly what their fans want, and this is an extremely well-played and gracefully sung selection of songs that will surely keep their audience two-stepping across the floor for the year until their next release. (In an interesting acknowledgement of norteño's popularity as cell phone ringtones, the group has released an EP containing two album cuts and two exclusive songs -- "El Poste" and "Va Sola" -- downloadable from Verizon.) [La Granja was also released in a two-disc Deluxe Edition featuring two bonus tracks and a DVD including four videos and other bonus material.] ~ Phil Freeman