In Oregon a Teacher, In New Mexico a Star

Mar 21, 2016

Chris Arellano

In Albany and Corvallis, he's a music teacher and guitarist, but in New Mexico, he's a star.  We're talking about Chris Arellano.

In 1979, New Mexico musician Jake Arellano wrote and recorded the song Cuentas Que Te Vas.  Arellano died in a car crash in 1984.  Thirty years later, his son Chris, who lives in Albany and works in Corvallis, made his own recording:

"I've always wanted to make my own arrangement of the song, and it's special to our family. It was the song that we played during his funeral."

Most of Arellano's album was recorded in Oregon, but Cuentas was done in Taos.  It's a unique combination of Norteño and country. Accordion meets pedal steel:

                                          (Cuentas plays)

                                           Arellano made a few changes to his father's song:

"I was going for a Bakersfield country kind of sound is what I was after, a Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam kind of thing, so I wrote a little intro (strums guitar) so I just kind of wrote that."

He tweaked the lyrics:

(Sings beginning of Cuentas)

A Taos radio station picked it up:

"Requests came in really quick for the whole song and just blew up from there, made its way up to Albuquerque and nows it's just been on fire."

It's also getting air play in Austin and Nashville.

While a well-regarded teacher and guitarist, Chris is not a household name in Oregon, but in New Mexico he can pack a concert hall:

"And now a song from his latest cd release, our guest, Chris Arellano!"

At KANW radio in Albuquerque program director Kevin Otero says Arellano has the best-selling album at the station's music store:

"Here in New Mexico Chris is viewed as a rising star. You can really hear the emotion and passion."

(Arellano sings Puño de Tierra)

Otero says Arellano is invigorating New Mexico spanish music by doing things like a version of the traditional Puño de Tierra with an arrangement that Arellano says was inspired by John Prine. Chris says the cd--called Chris J. Arellano--follows his musical journey from childhood in New Mexico to time as a session player in Nashville to Oregon:

"I just wanted to play music that I loved. I didn't care if it was country. I didn't care if it was blues. I didn't care if it was Spanish.  I didn't have any expectations I just wanted to record a project that I was proud of."