Earlier in the summer, one of Sherry Ann’s best friends was planning a trip to Mexico, and before she discovered that the friend doesn’t even own an mp3 player (!!), she proposed that I create a playlist of Mexico-themed tracks that she could load on the iPod. My initial reaction to her request was that it would be an entirely futile exercise, that there didn’t exist enough songs about our southern neighbors to even take down the fingers on one hand, much less fill up a brilliant Buzz playlist. However, a bit of spelunking into the scary depths of my iTunes library proved my original hypothesis to be incorrect. Indeed, some of my favorite songs ever (literally!) are either about outright, or — in their lyrics and melodies — ultimately evoke the spirit and mood of, Mexico. I quickly understood that she was on to something, and what follows is the final result of this earnest experiment. If, by the end of track number ten, you’re not picturing Mexico in a whole new light, do me a favor and start all over again at song one. And the second time through, listen harder.


(P.S. If you’re wondering, Sherry Ann, why Shelly West’s early-’80s classic drinkin’ tune “Jose Cuervo” isn’t on this playlist, the answer is simple: for reasons that can’t be explained rationally, the song, along with the rest of West’s stellar solo work, remains unavailable on iTunes. Steve, baby, we need to get to fixin’ that immediately.)


(P.S.S. Ditto Tori Amos’ “Alamo.” Seriously, already!)


1.  “Smooth”Santana featuring Rob Thomas (from Supernatural) — Santana - Supernatural - Smooth (feat. Rob Thomas) — this century’s first Grammy winner for Record of the Year, the ridiculously ubiquitous Latin-flavored classic that sent us all scrambling for a Spanish-English dictionary to figure out what exactly was a muñequita.

2.  “Valerie”Patti Scialfa (from Rumble Doll) — Patti Scialfa - Rumble Doll - Valerie — it’s not ostensibly about Mexico — although Scialfa mentions in the chorus that she desires to go there — but the wistful imagery the song masterfully conjures brings brilliantly to mind a top-down, wind-in-your-hair drive south.

3.  “I Got Mexico”Eddy Raven (from The Best of Eddy Raven) — Eddy Raven - Best of Eddy Raven - I Got Mexico — it took the magnificent Raven twenty-two years to land his first number one single, and he did it with this perfect little piffle about cutting your losses and trading them in for the Coke-and-rum-laced good life.

4.  “Playboys of the Southwestern World” Blake Shelton (from The Dreamer) — Blake Shelton - The Dreamer - Playboys of the Southwestern World — from a strongly underrated musician and artist, a hilarious ditty about a pair of gringo doofuses (doofi?) who get mixed up in a Mexican mess south of the border.

5.  “Stays in Mexico” Toby Keith (from 35 Biggest Hits) — Toby Keith - Toby Keith: 35 Biggest Hits - Stays In Mexico — a typically rowdy smash from crunchy’s current king of the amoral story song.

6.  “Mexico”Jimmy Buffett (from Barometer Soup) — Jimmy Buffett - Barometer Soup - Mexico — James Taylor’s original is much beloved, and with mighty fine reason, but I have long preferred Buffett’s breezy take on this classic. As superb a summer sing-along song as has ever been written. (Not counting, of course, Buffett’s own slightly-more-pensive stab at navigating this particular kind of terrain, the hilariously heavy-hearted “Margaritaville”  Jimmy Buffett - Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes - Margaritaville )

7.  “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” Chris Isaak (from The Baja Sessions) — Chris Isaak - Baja Sessions - South of the Border (Down Mexico Way) — a sleepy Latin lullaby — sung with a rock-solid croon by the always-dependable Isaak — reminiscent of Marty Robbins’ timeless signature “El Paso,” albeit with an infinitely happier ending.

8.  “The Seashores of Old Mexico”George Strait (from Somewhere Down in Texas) — George Strait - Somewhere Down In Texas - The Seashores of Old Mexico — one of the finest, most heartfelt vocals from Strait’s illustrious career tells the story — written by the iconic Merle Haggard, who also appears in track number nine below — of lovers on the lam through the mountains and valleys of the old, rugged country. A dangerously romantic knockout.

9.  “Pancho and Lefty”Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard (from Pancho and Lefty) — Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson - Pancho & Lefty - Pancho and Lefty — one friend betrays another and sends him toward his untimely death in this oft-covered, strangely moving Townes Van Zandt classic whose most famous version became an unlikely smash, one of the biggest hits either of these legends ever scored.

10.  “Mexico”Leona Naess (from I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll) — Leona Naess - I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll - Mexico — listen to even just eight bars of her best material — of which this lovely, bittersweet tune ranks at the pinnacle — and I swear you’ll wonder why Naess has managed to fly so far below the radar for so long. If you set a lazy, longing Sunday afternoon to music, I reckon it would sound exactly like this.



1 response to “sounds so simple, I just got to go
(or: mexico — the bitter and the sweet)”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    Whatever sounds, images, and themes Mexico evokes for you — whether traditional Latin culture, a party atmosphere at the beach, the rugged terrain of the Chihuahuan desert, or the nearest escape from America, to name just a few — this playlist seems to have it all. Going through this playlist transported me back into my three trips to Mexico (first, on a half-day excursion to Tijuana; next, on a proper exploration of Mexico City and the Yucatan; and last, on a two-day pure relaxation trip to Mexico’s Caribbean) and reminded me of how amazing our neighbor to the South truly is. Well, next time I am heading to Mexico (Baja California, anyone?), I’ll be sure to take this playlist with me. Thanks for a great gift, Brandon!

    My top picks:

    1. “Smooth”
    2. “Valerie”
    3. “I Got Mexico”
    4. “Playboys of the Southwestern World”
    5. “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”
    6. Leona Naess’ “Mexico”