'Heard It on the X'

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Heard It on the X, the new album by Grammy winners Los Super 7, celebrates the golden age of radio along the U.S.-Mexico border.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Los Super Seven is more of a concept than a regular band. Its lineup is constantly changing. Since the late '90s, Los Super Seven has brought together big-name contemporary musicians. "Heard It on the X" is their third album. It features country crooner Lyle Lovett and blues man Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, among others. David Greenberger has a review.

DAVID GREENBERGER reporting:

The album is a tribute to the golden age of radio along the US-Mexico border. From the 1930s through the mid-1980s, renegade American broadcasters built and operated superpowered stations just south of the border. Out of the country and beyond the reach of the federal regulations, these so-called border blasters challenged America's media establishment with edgy, eclectic programming and signals powerful enough to reach listeners across the country.

(Soundbite of "Heard It on the X")

GREENBERGER: Raucous deejays, evangelists and pitchmen of all sorts were staples, along with the wonderful diversity of music. On this CD, the visionary behind Los Super Seven, Dan Goodman, and collaborator Rick Clark sought to capture that diversity with a wide-ranging mix of country, blues, various Latin genres and rock. Los Super Seven veteran Ruben Ramos sings the title track. It's a cover of ZZ Top's tribute to border radio called "Heard It on the X"; the X because, like all radio stations in Mexico, the names of these stations begin with X.

(Soundbite of "Heard It on the X")

Mr. RUBEN RAMOS: (Singing) Do you remember back in 1966? Country Jesus, hillbilly blues, that's where I got my licks. Oh, from coast to coast and line to line in every county there, I'm talking about that outlaw X is cutting through the air. Everywhere, y'all. Everywhere, y'all. I heard it, I heard it, I heard it on the X.

GREENBERGER: Ramos, Freddy Fender, Lyle Lovett and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown are among the artists featured on this CD. It's a veritable Who's Who of Texas roots music. Many of them grew up listening to these broadcasts and were inspired by them. Here, Lovett sings a song made famous by Texas swing legend Bob Wills, "My Window Faces the South."

(Soundbite of "My Window Faces the South")

Mr. LYLE LOVETT: (Singing) My window faces the South. I'm almost halfway to heaven. Snow is falling, but still I can see fields of cotton smiling at me. My window faces the South. Though I'm far from the Shawnee, I'm never frowning or down in the mouth. My window faces the South.

GREENBERGER: Another highlight is "Cupido," sung by Freddy Fender and Rick Trevino. It's one of two tracks on the album sung in Spanish, a reminder that border radio was bilingual back when there were few outlets for Hispanic music.

(Soundbite of "Cupido")

Mr. FREDDY FENDER: (Singing in Spanish)

Mr. RICK TREVINO: (Singing in Spanish)

GREENBERGER: Producers Dan Goodman and Rick Clark combed through hundreds of songs to compile the set list. Some may have been played on border radio stations; all would have been right at home there. The album works not just because of the variety of music but because there's continuity. It's smartly sequenced with the feel of one song set against the contrasting possibilities of the next. To quote Clark, "It all breathes the same air."

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: The CD by Los Super Seven is called "Heard It on the X." Our reviewer is David Greenberger.

(Soundbite of "The Song of Everything")

Mr. RAUL MALO: (Singing) The song of everything has something for somebody. The song of everything has something for somebody. Spend my life in ecstasy underneath the redwood trees. It knocks you to your knees. When you're there, breathe air. It's Big Sur if you're there, and you know it's the season to...

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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