Leon Chavez Teixeiro, a large, silver-haired man who walks with a limp, could pass as an ordinary workman instead of one of a handful of Mexican songwriters struggling to breathe new life into their nation's stagnant pop music scene--at least until he started singing at Saturday's political fund-raising concert at Fritchman Auditorium.
With a voice as gritty as a smog-filled Mexico City sky, Teixeiro, 50, sang his stark portraits of working men and women in the sarcastic, violent vernacular of the capital's streets. "Se va la vida" ("Life Slips Away"), a barrio woman's daily chores recounted as a litany of irredeemable losses, and "Cipriano Hernandez Martinez," a sordid account of a union organizer's betrayal by another worker, ranked among his best efforts.
Not that Teixeiro and his accompanists on guitar and violin are great jazz or rock virtuosos. Although expressive, Teixeiro's voice bordered on a monotone. Instead, his real strength stems from his ability to meld the plaintive quality of the tango and the blues with the corrido --Mexico's political and historical ballad. When Teixeiro falters, it's because his verses lose narrative coherence or revert to the cliches of Latin American protest music.