Chasing History

For 40 years, Arhoolie Records' Chris Strachwitz has worked to make unknown roots music (almost) famous

Where it's at for Strachwitz now is Texas-Mexico border music. He's obtained the rights to the material on several forgotten labels featuring conjunto and norteno music -- ballads and two-steps sung over accordion, horn, and guitar accompaniment.

"This is really a body of literature," he says emphatically. "This is people who don't write books, don't write poems, per se, but they make songs."

Strachwitz knows from experience that the market probably won't bear much when it comes to the works of conjunto queen Lydia Mendoza and others, but he wants to document it all for reasons of his own. "It's so seldom that I hear things that really appeal to me," he says. "I never seem to think about whether I can sell it or not.

"It's always been our weakness.

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