Some may know accordion ace Michael Guerra from his days with Los Texmaniacs, Ruben Ramos, Rick Trevino, the Tex-Mex Experience, or his session appearances with Los Lobos, the Texas Tornados, Los Lonely Boys, or others. His recent work with Raul Malo and, now, The Mavericks, are what caught my attention in recent years. The guy is just plain good, as he’s been playing accordion since his mid-teens. Beyond that, he can play several other instruments, truly making his stage presence known.
Guerra and his band just released their debut and self-titled CD. Guerra has produced a style all his own, yet, one cannot help but notice the various influences, be it conjunto, rock, blues, mariachi, or country. It’s all in this eclectic production which fuses into something better than most attempts at “latin fusion.” This one has a special vibe to it.
Kicking off with Voodoo Lady, one notices the rock influences, with Robert Ybarra’s haunting guitar blending with Guerra’s accordion. One may think Los Lonely Boys, thus making the tune quite Texican, but it’s all Guerra and his band. The country tune, My Love’s Too Big (To Fail) caught my attention with the title (I’m in politics, sue me!). In this tune, one immediately notices Guerra’s San Anto influence.
The Los Lobos’ musical influence pops out with La Prietita Loca, with its cumbia rhythm. Of course, the hook, “La Prietita baila muy suave…pero cuando se junta con las chicas se pone muy loca,” is quite catchy. Dreams Gone Blue has a country-mariachi-trio feel to it with some excellent lyrics–and it sounds like it could have been picked up off the cutting-room floor of a Raul Malo CD and given its own flavor.
Let’s Try seems to have a style all its own with a slow rock groove, and is a good introducer to The Who’s Mama’s Got a Squeezebox. The Who could have used a Michael Guerra back then, who really shows off his technique on this tune, as done Ybarra on the guitar solo. On the next tune, Guerra returns to a country-esque/mariachi style with Break Away. The old-style music with modern lyrics make this a favorite.
Guerra does not forget the music that put him on the map–conjunto. And Que Viva Mi San Antonio provides a nice tune with quite the visual of partying in San Anto. Showing his partiality to trio/mariachi stylings, Guerra belts out the classic La Barca backed up by his acordeon, guitars and requinto, showing off his vocal abilities.
The bluesy-rock tune You Set Me Free shows off Ybarra’s guitar again, while telling the story of being set free by a woman who seems to have made the wrong choice. Ain’t it always the way?
Guerra’s biggest influence and the reason for his music career is his dad Elias. Mike began toiling on various instruments before picking up the instrument that set the path for his career–the acordeon. That said, Mike brings in his dad for the final tune, Dame Un Nuevo Corazon, a gospel song with an acordeon-heavy bolero feel.
It is safe to say that this production is a venture through Guerra’s various influences, yet, it is his signature accordion which sets it apart. This is a great first full production for Guerra. Of course, he’ll have a hard time touring to support it since he’s working hard with The Mavericks at the moment. No doubt, he is going through some career-building experiences.