Photo: Noreen O'Brien

Photo: Noreen O'Brien

Lone Piñon is an acoustic conjunto from Northern New Mexico whose music celebrates the diversity and integrity of their region's cultural roots.  Using violins, accordion, quinta huapangera, bajo sexto, guitarrón, tololoche and vocals in Spanish, English, Nahuatl, and P'urépecha the group has revived and updated the Chicano stringband style that once flourished in New Mexico, bringing a devoted musicianship to Northern New Mexican polkas and chotes, virtuosic Mexican huapango and son calentano, and classic borderlands conjunto.

New Mexico has long been a crossroads not only of cultures, but of eras--a place where ancient ways of being exist alongside modern life.  The oldest strands of New Mexican traditional music began to become scarce in the 1950s when New Mexico was rapidly and at times forcibly integrated into the American economic and cultural environment.  But testaments and bridges to this older world have remained in recordings, photos, and most importantly in the living memory of elders.  The musicians of Lone Piñon--Noah Martinez, Jordan Wax, and Leticia Gonzales--were all lucky enough to be initiated early in their musical path into the traditions of elder musicians, who instilled in them a respect for continuity and an example of the radicalism, creativity, and cross-cultural solidarity that has always been necessary for musical traditions to adapt and thrive in each generation.  In 2014, they formed Lone Piñon in an effort to find and strengthen the oldest strands of New Mexico string music, sounds that had all but disappeared from daily life.  Through relationship with elders, study of field recordings, and connections to parallel traditional music and dance revitalization movements in the US and Mexico, they have brought the language of New Mexico traditional music and related regional traditions back onto the modern stage, back onto dance floors, and back into the ears of a young generation.

Early on in the process their involvement in New Mexican styles opened up connections to a network of related styles that cross state and national borders.  Their active repertoire reflects the complexity of this musical landscape and includes twin-fiddle traditions from South Texas, Tohono O'odham fiddle tunes from Arizona, early conjunto accordion music, contemporary New Mexican rancheras and canciones norteñas, orquesta tejana, New Mexican and Mexican swing, huapangos huastecos from the Mexican Huasteca region, and several styles of music from Michoacán:  son calentano and son planeco from the southern lowlands and son abajeño and pirekuas from the P'urepecha highlands.  

Noah Martinez (bajo sexto, quinta huapanguera, vihuela, tololoche, guitarrón) grew up in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque immersed in the music of his community: Onda Chicana, New Mexican rancheras, punk rock, norteño, honky-tonk, Western swing, and the jaranero movement. For 5 years he was the regular bassist for The Knightcappers of Albuquerque's North Valley, where he learned to play ranchera and onda chicana under the guidance of seasoned musicians. He is a descendant of several generations of activists who have worked to protect the agricultural and cultural traditions of Native New Mexicans and he raises sheep and goats on his family's land in the North Valley of Albuquerque.

Jordan Wax (violin, accordions, vocals) grew up in Missouri and was traditionally trained by master Ozark fiddler Fred Stoneking and Central Missouri dance fiddler John White.  He worked as bandleader and accordionist for a Jewish dance band for years before his work with Missouri and New Mexican fiddle styles inspired him to travel to Mexico for a 6-month immersion in Mexican huapango fiddling, where he learned from Rolando "El Quecho" Hernandez of Trio Chicontepec, Casimiro Granillo of Trio Chicamole, and a variety of local fiddlers in the Huasteca region of San Luis Potosí.  His studies of traditional New Mexico dance music have been guided and inspired in the past years by Tomas Maes (mandolinist of Santa Fe, NM) and Antonia Apodaca (accordionist and guitarist of Rociada, NM). This winter he traveled to Morelia, Michoacan for a few weeks of intensive study with master son calentano violinist Serafin Ibarra Cortez and P'urepecha elder and composer Tata Pedro Dimas.

Since 2016 Martinez and Wax have been collaborating with Leticia Gonzales (violin, mandolin, percussion, dance instruction) of Santa Fe, NM.  Leticia learned to play music from older family members when she was still in elementary school, and performed with them regularly for religious and cultural celebrations around Santa Fe before continuing on to formal study of classical violin, Balkan music, and African drumming.  Her approach to the music of her home draws heavily on her experience as a drummer and dancer; she finds as much joy in dancing to the music as she does in playing it.  Leticia will join the group for performances in 2018.

In the past years Lone Piñon has played extensively across the Southwest, both coasts, and the Midwest and recorded two CDs: "Trio Nuevomexicano," self-released in February 2016, and "Días Felices," released internationally in March 2017 by Living Music Dupli-cation (www.lmduplication.com).  Their third studio album, "Dále Vuelo"  is in the works and set for release by Living Music in the summer of 2018.  In August 2018 they were honored to be invited by the Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center to Washington DC, where they recorded a concert and an oral history of their work with New Mexican and Mexican musical traditions.

Highlight Past Performances:

us library of congress, washington dC

MILLENIUM STAGE AT THE KENNEDY CENTER, WASHINGTON DC

World music wednesdays at the old-town school of folk music, chicago

TUCSON MEET YOURSELF FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL

THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA'S "MASALA" WORLD MUSIC SERIES

Globalquerque! World Music and Culture Festival

Ultimately, you sense the band’s deep respect for the music and cultures from which it emerged, honoring its integrity with the purity of their all acoustic instrumental approach. There is no updating going on, but there is a subtle blending, like a good spice mix, as they bring their diverse backgrounds to this music. New Mexico itself, you might remember, was Mexico (along with Arizona, Texas Nevada and California) until what is called on this side of the border the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, which resulted in massive U.S. expansion. It has the highest percentage of both Hispanic and Indigenous populations of any contiguous U.S. state. But it’s also close to the Midwest and it of course borders Texas and Oklahoma. All of this is present in New Mexico, and it is present in the music of Lone Piñon as well.

But enough of academics! Lone Piñon are, first and foremost, crack musicians and singers, but the casualness of their presentation belies this expertise, instead conjuring the feel of a gathering of good friends.
— Don Macica of Border Radio, Chicago, IL.
Exceptionally good.
— fRoots Magazine
It’s a challenge not to clap, tap, or sway along with these rhythms... Listening to this album highlights the pleasure to be derived from cross cultural relationships. These Días Felices are uplifting.
— No Depression
They own each style with a genuine sincerity, three instruments, astonishing skills and complete dedication to their music [which] comes up, from this fresh treatment, renewed, alive and well. ...emotion and musicianship are obvious... Virtuosity is always there....Dont miss this.
— Le Cri du Coyote Magazine (France)