Fernando Delgadillo: Mellow, Melodious, and Mysterious

There are artists that fill an emotional niche for me, and Mexican singer-songwriter Fernando Delgadillo is my go-to guy when I’m in a mellow, pensive mood. Or, if I’m just feeling nostalgic for some Spanish tunes to remind me how much of the language I’ve forgotten.

Unfortunately, the independent artist’s music isn’t easily accessible outside his native Mexico, but Amazon.com stocks his live albums Febrero 13 Vol. 1 and 2, which are a good introduction to his emotive voice and lush acoustic guitar. Actually, a better – and free – introduction is the downloads at Delgadillo’s website. If you’re hooked after that, the rest of his many CDs can be ordered directly through that same site (click on Tienda) … but you have to really, really want them to go through the hassle of the offline ordering process (the instructions for which are only in Spanish).

If you decide not to take up that challenge, with Febrero 13 you’re at least getting best-of albums that contain a great sampling of Delgadillo’s talents, with two of my favourites on Volume 1 and available for download at his site: “Julieta,” sweet nostalgia for a childhood crush, and “Hoy ten miedo de mi,” about … um … his passion for a woman? Or something.

But if you’re willing to brave the experience (or manage to find it through other means) the album I can’t get out of my head – or my stereo – is Campo de Sueños, especially the hauntingly beautiful melody of the song “Visiones.” Each song on the album paints a whimsical picture, from the little boy of “Aguacate” who struggles with school and fitting in, to the greenhouse-loving friend who literally turns into a plant in “Conducta Herbal.”

The lyrics are poetic and filled with intriguing imagery and allusions, which I can’t pretend to fully understand. But as with many other artists who are presumably singing in English, of course you don’t have to understand what he’s saying to appreciate his music.

My boyfriend at the time, who introduced me to Delgadillo’s lilting voice and guitar, was wary of my efforts to decipher the lyrics. It was part of my attempt to get more comfortable with the language – the same reason I started reading the Harry Potter books in Spanish, mitigating any reluctance I might have had to pick up a kid’s book. Hey, it was educational. But as the boyfriend said: “He’s very poetic. Spanish is my first language and I don’t understand what he’s talking about.”

This is the same guy who encouraged me to speak English to him, which I suspect was motivated more by horror at my accent than the stated, also valid reason, that we were most ourselves in our native tongues. Our bizarre bilingual conversations at least half fulfilled my language lessons, and my quest to understand Delgadillo’s lyrics was half successful.

A translation would suck the poetry out of them. Well, that’s not fair. My translation would suck the poetry out of them. I find “Visiones” vaguely reminiscent of Lady of Shallot romanticism and Icarus imagery, but the emphasis would be on the “vaguely.” The cold nights are keeping the narrator inside, where his music and imagination provide the visions he relates, including of a man learning to fly, falling and kissing his hands because they were wings. Or something.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the downloads, and if they make you want to kiss your hands – or something – check out the albums.

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(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

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