WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED Linda Ronstadt to mariachi music (and her father and grandfather before her) is so obvious on "Canciones de mi Padre" ("Songs of my Father") that even those who've been cool to her in the past are likely to find much of this album compelling.

For if Ronstadt's voice doesn't impress you, even though its sheer power has never been better displayed on record, then chances are these haunting, graceful, passionate songs will.

The songs, all sung in Spanish and evocatively arranged by Ruben Fuentes, are diverse: Coridos (story songs), rancheras (cowboy songs), danza habernas (folk dances) and even a poetic Mexican salon piece are included. Ronstadt is at her best when the songs require an exuberant voice; happily, that's often the case, particularly on the rodeo song "La Charreada" and the dance tune "La Cigarra." Of the ballads, perhaps the most moving is "El Sol Que Tu Eres," a song of poverty and struggle adopted by Cesar Chavez's farm workers.

To her credit, Ronstadt doesn't pass off her interpretations as definitive. To the contrary, the liner notes, which include English translations, describe the history of the music and make numerous references to other artists and recordings. As Ronstadt learned from her father, mariachi music is definitely an enthusiasm worth sharing.


"Canciones de mi Padre" (Asylum 60765-1). Appearing Friday and Saturday at the Warner.