Los Tigres del Norte's members have earned music-business respect the hard way: note by note, line by line and mile by mile. To explain the band's one-of-a-kind connection to its audience, let me offer a short behind-the-scenes story about covering it for NPR News.
A while back, I wanted to do a story about how immigrants from Mexico and Central America are changing the demographic profile of this country in unexpected places. To do that, I wanted to travel with Los Tigres to a place its members had never played before, thinking I could mark the birth of a new immigrant community by attending their first Tigres performance.
The publicist couldn't find a single market in the country the band hadn't played at least once. In other words, wherever the immigrants were, Los Tigres had already been there to play for them.
The glue of that remarkable attraction is how the band writes its hugely successful songs. I've seen for myself how the group spends hours after shows talking to fans who bring their own private stories of heartache, triumph, frustration and celebration. Those after-show testimonials become elements of the next album. So this is indeed the voice of the people.
Does the constant touring, the album sales and folk-hero status make sense now? There is no other band like Los Tigres del Norte, in any language. The list of high-profile guests on this special unplugged Los Tigres del Norte and Friends album attests to the respect the group commands among its peers in the record business.
Let me retract that last statement: They don't have peers in the record business. Their peers are the people who buy their records, dance at their shows and share their life stories with them. This album captures that connection in all its glory.