RIP: Juan Gabriel

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Alberto Aguilera Valadez “Juan Gabriel” (1950-2016)

“Mientras exista alguien que cante mis canciones, Juan Gabriel vivirá.”

Event: 37th Festival Chicano ~ OCT 6, 7, 8, 2016

Time to lock-in Festival Chicano on your calendar! See you there! (Note:  Saturday line-up changed as Mazz is unable to make it. Ram Herrera added to the line-up with David Lee Garza headlining.)

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DC Reviews: Veronique ~Mi Año Dorado

Originally posted at TejanoNation.net.

veroniqueSome say that the Tejano music genre is in a struggle; others say it’s on an upswing. While our mainstays, like David Lee Garza, Jay Perez, Elida Reina and others keep at it, as fans, we need to seek out new talent for our hungry ears. AMI Records artist Veronique offers the sort of vocal talent that can just as easily join that group of mainstay artists to keep Tejano strong.

A few years after her debut album Encantadora, she has released her sophomore production, Mi Año Dorado, and, I must tell you, it’s an album that is exactly what we fans look for–de todo un poco. The RGV native and graduate of UT-Pan Am delivers on all kinds of tunes, including rancheras, cumbias, boleros, and mariachi-styled numbers.

Kicking off with a smooth Tejano cumbia, Te Entrego Mi Corazon, she leaves no doubt about how enjoyable the album will be. El Mas Grande de Mis Errores is one of those female empowerment tunes, acknowledging the mistake that a certain man is in one nice little tell-off–all in a rancherita to which one can zapatear. As real as that song is, La Pulga, another boot-stomping rancherita about having a date at a flea market, is as real as it gets. The more Norteña Su Mujer is just as danceable, with Veronique offering up some vocal range throughout the tune.

Cumbias are also the order of the day including a modern-styled Regresa A Mi, but it is Primer Amor which takes folks back to the sock-hop days with a 50s-esque intro and do-wop style. Fantasia, though, brings it back to the modern style and Vinyl Viernes takes us on a more tropical trip that includes some heavy percussion. Not lost, though, is Veronique’s full-voiced delivery.

Vete de Aqui and Blanco y Negro provide some acordeon-heavy boleros that show off Veronique’s range and abilities. But it’s the album-closer that will definitely be a fan favorite at live shows as the Mariachi-styled Sobrevivire will cause some mujer-led, grito-filled sing-a-longs.

Veronique Medrano’s career is definitely on the upswing as she has opened for major acts all over the state of Texas. Nominated for the Tejano Music Awards “Best New Female Artist” category, she is definitely being noticed. Down in El Magico Valle, she is also a co-host with Mando San Roman on Puro Tejano TV. And she’s about to embark on a Texas tour, which begins in Baytown on August 13. So, keep an eye out for her upcoming events on her website.

Thanks to John Henry Medina from Tejano Nation for putting Veronique on my radar. One can download Mi Año Dorado at CDBaby or buy the CD at Veronique’s website.

 

 

The Krayolas Release “Piñata Trump” and “El Cucuy”

Just in time for the political convention season, Chicano rock-and-roll group The Krayolas have dropped two tracks for our listening pleasure.  Piñata Trump is a little self-explanatory and fun to dance–or to  break a certain piñata to. El Cucuy is the story of that scariest of characters who has been the basis of our parents threats, or maybe it’s just Trump.

Give these tunes a listen.

Los Texmaniacs Conquer Under The Volcano…Again!

lostexm2While most of my friends were at home watching a dumpster fire (the RNC), I took the night off from forming an ulcer and headed over to Under the Volcano on Bissonnet to catch my favorite Tex-Mex conjunto super group, Los Texmaniacs. Having caught their show at such an intimate locale in February, I figured catching them again would be better than the last time. And it was! This time, I brought the whole familia.

A very diverse crowd came ready for what was truly an Americana music show. Although they can sling that conjunto music like no one’s business, they add some country, Mexican traditional, cumbia rhythms, and some rock-tinged Tex-Mex to the set-list with ease. They blazed through a diverse set of songs for two straight hours–other than a few stops for sip of something cold, or a quick adjustment to an amp.

They kicked off with the haunting Danzon Juarez, which allowed each of the musicians to show off their chops, particularly Bajo Sexto king Max Baca, and his nephew Josh Baca, an already accomplished accordionist at age 24. With an already full dance floor swaying to this tango-esque tune, they moved on to their tried and true Tex-Mex ranchera stylings with a single from their current CD Americano Groove, Como Te Quiero which then transformed into an accordion instrumental polkita.

Then came How Can A Beautiful Woman Be So Ugly, I Wanna Know Your Name, an education lesson on how Tex-Mex conjunto was created, and a personal favorite, Cancion Mixteca. A Huapango/Chotis medley and a medley of Ruben Vela hits “al estilo Valle de Tejas,” and one had the perfect evening. But there was more!

lostexmAfter they closed the show with upcoming single Mexico Americano, the crowd yelled for more:  “Otra! Otra!” Max re-plugged in his Bajo to the amp and the band seared through another hit single, Down in the Barrio, which ended with rockin’ solos from the all the band members, including:  Tio Baca and Nephew Baca, as well as Noel Hernandez-Bass; Daniel Martinez-Drums; and Fernando Martinez-Rhythm Guitar.

With each tune, the Bacas provided their own personal touch–a hot pasadita on the squeezebox, a bit of axemanship on the bajo. I’m looking forward to their next Houston visit.

Los Texmaniacs will be performing at SA’s newest venue, The Squeezebox, on Friday, July 22. Go check them out!

Here’s a live sample from a show at A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keiler.

Register Today!: Mayor’s Back to School Festival

Click on the image to register for this mid-August event.

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DC Reviews: Intocable ~ Highway

intocablecoverNot releasing an album in three years did not hurt Intocable. Twenty-two years of music has allowed them to amass quite a catalog of hits–hits that make for memorable set lists that always get their sell-out crowds singing along.

Still, one always wonders what else Intocable can accomplish on a new album. They have achieved much in the studio and on the road, but their newest album, Highway, is a project that reminds us of Intocable’s versatility, the excellent songwriters they hang with, and why we always get excited about their “next album” taking too long to be released.

In an interview a few years ago, band leader Ricardo Muñoz stated that he may not be the best vocalist in the business, but his on-stage confidence is bolstered by having some of the best musicians in the business. Highway leaves no doubt about this, especially the bajo sexto creativity of Johnny Lee Rosas. While Rosas recorded the entire album, he recently left to sew his own creativity with a band he founded years ago, Masizzo. Nonetheless, his and Alex Gulmar’s bajo playing on Highway is the best I’ve heard on a a Norteño album.

Although the run-up to the album’s release came with online releases of some of the tunes over the course of a few weeks, the band had been riding on a powerful single penned by Louie Padilla, Tu Ausencia. In another interview, Muñoz stated that the tune was a strong reminder of the loss of his father a few years ago. Having lost my Mom 6 months ago, I must say that as I sing along  to it, I usually get a lump in my throat. Released with an excellent video, the next single and video was a lighter one with Quiereme (Amame), a cumbia.

Highway is definitely a journey of experiences and of emotions. It’s also one of Intocable’s darker recordings, perhaps a journey of their own experiences as a band and as individuals. From love to love hurting to love lost, the band seems to describe just about anything that any given individual has gone through. Tunes like Te Perdono, a ranchera, reveal the pain of love lost by setting standards by which one forgives–and they’re not easy standards:  “Te perdono si un dia traes a Dios hasta mi puerta; cuando vea que a tus ojos salen lagrimas de sangre…” One even feels the sadness of the acordeon.

Equally haunting is the ballad, En La Obscuridad, about moving forward after losing on love, but what remains are the thoughts that cloud one forever. That much is noticeable in the song’s extended musical ending with the haunting back-and-forth of the acordeon and what can only be described as mind-noise in the background.

Intocable also hits on an important social issue, the missing and murdered women of Juarez. Wilfran Castillo’s Dia 730 tells the story of a 17 year-old girl with dreams of becoming famous lured by a man offering opportunities of success only to go missing and probably murdered. This cause has been around for years and the lack of response (few arrests and convictions) continues to instill fear in Juarez. Thankfully, Intocable adds to this discussion, including the pain families go through and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement. It’s a powerful and descriptive tune.

The band also reminds me that they grew up in the same rock era as I did, and Un Dia Sin Ti and Duele El Amor, both rancheras, have tinges of rock guitar and drumming (by Rene Martinez) that effectively set up the songs. The signature Intocable cumbias are also evident, with Cuando Me Vi En Tus Ojos and Sueño de Amor providing some danceable treats.

Intocable also invites a guest lead vocalist, Beto Zapata, on Cuestion de Tiempo, which he delivers quite well. The album is well-rounded out with Cuidare, Usted Me Encanta, and Quiza No Sea Tarde, making this a musically diverse album.

Intocable is:  Ricky Muñoz, Rene Martinez, Sergio Serna, Felix Salinas, Alex Gulmar, Juan Hernandez, and familiar new entrant, Danny Sanchez.

You can find the new album on various online outlets, but also exclusively for sale at Wal-Mart. Kudos to Ricky and the crew on a great production. They keep proving that independently produced records are the best ones out there.

TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance remembers the men and women who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff rounds up coverage of Ken Paxton’s latest anti-transgender lawsuit and publicity stunt.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos remembers Ken Starr and his role as the Republican’s Grand Inquisitor during Bill Clinton’s Presidency. The Grand Inquisitor for Bill Clinton’s sinning is mired in a sexual abuse scandal.

SocraticGadfly, looking ahead to the general election, and his mentions already of “Plan B” and Green Party voting, takes note of what he calls anti-third party electoral bigotry.

Some incredible pictures of the sky were included with flood photos from Houston’s most recent monsoon at PDiddie’s Brains and Eggs.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Lone Star Ma focuses on the eleventh of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The Lunch Tray explains the logic of serving federally-compliant donuts at school.

The TSTA Blog traces the origin of the STAAR test.

Paradise in Hell contemplates Ken Paxton’s potty issues.

Rally to Raise Houston – Friday May 27

seiujanitorsTen years ago, Houston Janitors won a courageous battle for better wages and working conditions. Ten years later, the Janitors are fighting to to get ahead and to achieve a new contract with major office building owners to contract with better paying contractors.

Members of the SEIU invite all of Houston to join the Houston Janitors as they as they come together to fight for dignity, respect, and fair pay.

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016 at 4PM

2000 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056 

The facts are these. 30% of workforce makes less than $12/hour. Union janitors make an average of $9.35/hour. And Janitors in other cities make more, while rent for offices are less than what Houston building owners make.

IF THE CONTRACTORS WIN

  • Wages as low as $29 a day

  • No guaranteed wage increase

  • No affordable benefits

  • No vacation time

  • Seniority is not recognized

  • No paid holidays

  • No way to solve job problems

IF WE STAND UP FOR OUR UNION

  • Wages at least $9.35/hr

  • Guaranteed yearly wage increase

  • Affordable health care when you work 30+ hours

  • 1 week vacation/year

  • With seniority, up to 2 weeks vacation

  • 6 paid holidays

  • Regular way to solve job problems

Central Business District Office Rents and Union Janitorial Wages

City CBD

Rental Rates ($/sq ft)

Janitor Wages ($/hr)

Houston

41.12

9.35

Seattle

39.12

15.75

Chicago

36.79

16.76

Denver

34.21

12.60

San Diego

29.28

11.65

Philadelphia

28.19

16.89

Minneapolis

27.18

15.12

Detroit

20.64

11.97

Source: JLL quarterly office statistics reports (2015 Q4), SEIU contracts.

Run-Off is Done; Dem Slate is Set

donkickIt was the kind of run-off that mostly had good candidates. I picked my favorites and went 3 – 5, and other races, I didn’t even pick. Still, come the time to click [REFRESH], there was a little excitement.

Big congrats to Ed Gonzalez who will be the Democratic nominee for Harris County Sheriff. I’ve known Ed for a while and I’ve always given him my support. I think he’d make a great sheriff; actually, I think he’d be great in any position to which he sets his mind.

In the 61st District Court, Fredericka Phillips had a great election day and squeezed out a 200+ vote victory over Julie Countiss, who had a strong mail ballot showing. This was the most exciting race of the night as we awaited the results and saw an exchange of leads.

Constable Chris Diaz of Pct. 2 had a decisive victory in his race earning over 72% of the vote. Congrats, Constable.

I’d like to give a huge tip of my sombrero to Tanya Makany-Rivera, candidate for JP Pct. 1. She was outspent by a lot and took on some heavies in the local establishment, but she never gave up until the last vote was cast. She’s good people and I hope to see her on the ballot again in the future. Congrats to Eric William Carter who won the race. I met him during the race and he’s personable and friendly, which are a couple of qualities needed on the people’s court. Good luck to him.

To my friend Rabeea Collier–You ran great race for the 11th District Court! I met Rabeea back in 2008 when the Hillary-Obama race was at its hottest–during Senate District Convention. She fought hard for her Obama delegates, while I fought hard for the Hillary delegates. It was quite fun. She’s another candidate I hope to see on the ballot in the future. Congrats to Kristen Hawkins who will carry the Donkey flag toward November. She’ll be a great candidate.

And congrats to all the Dems from the top to the bottom of the ballot.