Jose Darey Castro's debut on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart almost didn't happen after his career took a deadly turn in 2004.

Jose Darey Castro's debut on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart almost didn't happen after his career took a deadly turn in 2004. After a party gig in Chihuahua, Mexico, his tour bus was stopped by gunmen looking for the singer.

Until that day, his band had been building a career out of what had once been just a hobby: playing private parties, baptisms, weddings and quinceaƱeras, recording their performances and circulating their CDs.

But it was in a ravine by the highway, into which he'd been marched along with his bandmates, where everything changed.

"Suddenly they started shooting me in the arms, in the back, in the leg," says Darey. "They kept shooting another two pistol loads, and they didn't hit my body again but I heard the groans of the people when they were dying."

Of the eight men with him that night, four -- two bandmates, a cousin and the bus driver -- were killed. Three, including Darey, were wounded; the singer was able to wrap a shirt around his arm and walk far enough to call for help.

Like several regional Mexican artists in the last couple of years, Darey found himself caught up in a wave of unsolved killings, rumored to have roots in everything from personal disputes to wars between narco-traffickers who back artists' careers.

"I was never involved. I've never killed anyone, I've never moved drugs. But I've been very close to all those types of things," says Darey, who hasn't played a show in Mexico since the shooting.

He says his attackers didn't touch the $16,000 on the bus, but that the assault may have had to do with the murder of a man whose party they'd been hired to play.

Darey was inactive for a year-and-a-half after the shooting. After a while, "I said, my audience needs me, I have to play songs, I have to make music, sing and play the accordion." He and some of his original bandmates re-formed under a new name, Dareyes de la Sierra, and continued to record what had been a staple of their repertoire: corridos, or songs that narrate stories of the drug trade.

Though the genre is very popular, many radio stations won't play them. With Dareyes' latest album on Disa, the singer had bigger goals.

"We wanted to do something for the girls. There are guys who don't like the corridos as much, and there are women that like corridos and women that don't. We wanted to do something more commercial. We wanted to enter markets that we hadn't entered [before], and we've accomplished that."

The change proved to be a boon to his career, with Dareyes' "Con Banda" in its sixth week on Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart as of press time, when it stood at No. 40. Single "Hasta El Dia De Hoy," ("to this day"), a rant against an ex-lover, was No. 1 on Billboard's regional Mexican airplay char and No. 5 on Hot Latin Songs.

"There are intelligent ways to work, and you've got to learn them," says Darey.