Category Archives: Cultura

DC Reviews: La Santa Cecilia ~ Amar y Vivir

81ezh15i8xl-_sy355_Released just in time for their arrival to Texas, La Santa Cecilia’s Amar y Vivir can only be described in a word:  Special. It’s a visual album, with already a few videos of their album performances on YouTube.

It’s traditional, it’s modern, and it’s full of love and life. The LA band’s newest production was recorded live in Mexico City at various plazas and locations around the city. With invited guests, such as Comisario Pantera, Noel Schajris, Mariachi America, Rebel Cats, Caña Dulce Caña Brava, Mon Laferte, and the amazing voice of Eugenia León to sweeten the various tunes, we are given a musical effort that will remain timeless.

Equally timeless is the voice of La Marisoul (Marisol Hernandez) who seems to knock every tune out of the park. While the guest artists provide some beautiful accompaniment, La Marisoul provides the emotional push to ensure a strong delivery of the songs.

The title track, Amar y Vivir, a haunting bolero thanks to some exceptional electric guitar playing, opens the album, while the amazing vals, Odiame, follows, both tunes solidifying the requinto as central to the album. LSC resurrects an old favorite of theirs with a mariachi-powered version of Como Dios Manda. Mar y Cielo is a sweet bolero, while the rockin’ ranchera Mexico Americano is a needed prideful addition.

La Santa Cecilia also managed to send me into a bawling frenzy during this Mother’s Day weekend with a beautiful rendition of Amor Eterno. Needless to say, I really miss Flo.

Volver a Los 17 is a beautiful tune, while Mon Laferte joins in on a wonderful vals, Ingrata. Then, we’re provided quite the treat with Smokey Robinson’s  You Really Got A Hold On Me, which La Marisoul simply owns.

Leña de Pirul is an old standard brought to life again, while Nuestro Juramento is a a beautiful bolero that will get your toes tapping along with lyrics to make us shudder. But it’s the last track, En El Ultimo Trago, which La Marisoul duets with Eugenia Leon, that will get a concert crowd to sing-along.

No doubt, it’s the voice of La Marisoul and the requinto-playing of Pepe Carlos that set this album apart from others in which standards are attempted. With the simple instruments of guitars and requinto, percussion, and upright bass, a foundation is set for an album that treats the songs respectfully and without a need to be showy. La Santa Cecilia is a band of musicians who take their music seriously, and this genre-bending LA band can compete with the best of them.

The new production is available on CD and vinyl. Get yours today!

THE CONCERT at HEIGHTS

La Santa Cecilia came to Texas to perform in the Big 3– SA, Houston, and Dallas–and I was able to check out their show at the Heights Theater. It was the perfect venue for them and a great crowd greeted them on Saturday.

LSC started with their bilingual rendition of The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever, to which they once released a video depicting the travels of the strawberries that end up in our fridges–starting from the fields worked by farm workers. A few LSC favorites into the show, the crowd was told that Hernandez was feeling under the weather, so, she wouldn’t be doing her usual dancing and jumping on the stage which in itself revs up the crowd.

Still, La Marisoul powered through Vengo, I Won’t Cry For You, Sucede and other favorites, only taking a short minute break toward the end of their set. Their show included some of their latest tunes from Amar y Vivir, including the show closer, Mexico Americano, which earned some “Power to the People” fists in the air.

As much as one loves their albums, you can tell how good a band is through their live performances and La Santa Cecilia is just one of those bands. La Marisoul proved that the show must go on and she delivered vocal perfection. Catch them next time they’re in town.

Opening for La Santa Cecilia was San Antonio genre-benders Nicolas Valdez y Los Nahuatlatos. They can go from SKA to conjunto to cumbia and return to all three and more in one set. Valdez was quite impressive on the acordeon as was the horn and rhythm section.

I’m looking forward to the next time I catch both of these bands.

 

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You Gotta Love ACLU’s Texas Travel Advisory

Unfortunately, this is very real.

Greg Abbott and the Republicans have placed a target on anyone who looks Mexican or has brown skin. It will take lawsuits to try to stop this in the short-run; however, in the long-run, it will take tough-spined candidates who don’t scapegoat immigrants and play politics with immigration to defeat those who create public policy from racist attitudes.

Get involved!

 

Coward Abbott Signs Mexican Profiling Law (SB4)

trumpfamilycrossing950Or, he’s outlawed brown skin. Whatever you want to call it, SB4 calls for allowing local law enforcement to racially profile anyone who looks Mexican and question their citizenship. It is also called the “anti-sanctuary cities” law. The law is scheduled to take effect September 1, but legal challenges will hopefully delay it and kill it.

Senate Bill 4 makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders subject to Class A misdemeanor charges if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates who are subject to deportation. It also provides civil penalties for entities in violation of the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and climb to as high as $25,500 for each subsequent infraction. The bill also applies to public colleges.

The final version of the bill included a controversial House amendment that allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment, as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest.

In cowardly fashion, Abbott picked a Sunday afternoon when the targeted communities are usually resting before heading back to the work-week. Abbott also invoked a California crime committed by an immigrant in defense of targeting all brown-skinned people with this law.

Made a legislative priority by Greg Abbott and pushed by the Republicans in the Texas Legislature, SB4 was supported by Republicans and strongly opposed by Democrats. In fact, Democrats put up a good fight and pro-migrant activists showed up to oppose Republican’s bigoted efforts in huge numbers when the measure was taken up in committees and by the House and Senate.

“Governor Abbott signed SB4 on a Facebook live while immigrant families all across Texas were spending time with their loved ones. We condemn this action and we will continue to fight for our families and our communities.  We are here to stay and continue to make Texas the amazing state is is because immigrants built this nation.” Cesar Espinosa Executive Director FIEL.

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More to come.

DC Reviews ~ The Mavericks, Lonely Boys

I had never been to Whitewater on the Horseshoe Amphitheater located outside of New Braunfels. The park-like setting within huge trees and right by where the river forms a horseshoe was perfect for what seemed like a Catholic church jamaica (or bazaar for Houston folk) on steroids.

A few thousand of my closest friends braved 90 degree heat standing in line and awaiting the start of the concert only to catch the arrival of a “cool” blast that lowered temps to the mid-60s, while gusts made the night quite chilly. It was quite welcome by the fans and especially the bands.

mavswwThe Mavericks headlined in explosive fashion, opening with their latest single Brand New Day, from their newest album of the same title. Playing hits from BND consecutively, the band was tight and on time on Easy As It Seems and Damned (If You Do) which revved up the crowd. Vocalist Raul Malo led the ba nd back to their previous album with Back In Your Arms Again and other hits.

Hit after hit, The Mavs took us through a career-long repertoire in only two hours, including Dance The Night Away, What A Crying Shame, among others. Raul Malo even took the role of pianist while he offered up a velvety Goodnight Waltz and a rockin’ Ride With Me, both tunes where we hear the best from the entire band. A welcome tune (for me) was one of Malo’s solo hits, Lucky One.

And, oh, The Mavericks band. Eddie and his guitaristics, Michael Guerra and his impeccable accordionistics, JD and his groovy keyboard riffs, Abrams and Diaz with their solid horns, the powerful drumming of Paul Deakin, and the bass lines of Ed Friedland are what keep The Mavericks at the top of their game. There have been plenty of varying line-ups of The Mavs and their Fantastic Four, but this one has to be among the best.

After what seemed to be the closing with As Long As There’s Loving Tonight at midnight, Malo returned with his Fender and gave us, in honor of Willie Nelson’s 84th birthday, Crazy. He continued with a favorite that his Cuban abuelo would sing, La Sitiera, with a powerful ending provided by the rest of the band. Then came the song we love, but don’t want to hear because it usually signifies the show’s ending:  All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down. The Mavericks blew us away throughout the night.

After four hours and three bands and a terrible electrical storm that could be seen in the distance, the fans had had their fill, if not enough. The Mavericks showed a lot of love for their fans and the fans, as always, returned it.

lboysLos Lonely Boys performed prior to The Mavs and the three-man band was just as powerful as they’ve ever been. They took us through some of the best tunes from their latest album, Revelation. Give A Little More, Blame It On Love, and So Sensual were among the new tunes. They took us back to their debut album with Velvet Sky and Crazy Dream. Several solos and some Texican Blues later, they brought out Henry’s son on guitar to help with their gigantic hit, Heaven, which then became a family affair as JoJo and Ringo also brought out their families to sing along with the crowd.

The night’s opener didn’t fall behind in their musical abilities, as The Last Bandoleros gave us a short show filled with tunes from their EP, including I Don’t Want To Know and Where Do You Go. The band, which includes Emilio Navaira’s eldest sons (Diego and Emilio IV) rocked out and gave the overheated crowd some satisfaction before the cold winds arrived. Already having appeared on national TV and serving as show openers for Sting’s latest tour, The Last Bandoleros, including Derek James, Jerry Fuentes, and bad-ass accordionist Percy Cardona, are already going places.

Kudos to the folks at Whitewater for providing a great venue and some amazing sound.

 

EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com

 

 

DC Reviews: The Mavericks ~ Brand New Day

It is indeed a brand new day when The Mavericks release new music. The run-up to the release of Brand New Day included the release a few tunes to appease the fan-base, while ensuring that they didn’t give away the store as to what was to come.

Brand New Day is exactly what fans (old and new) ordered, as The Mavericks created a 10-track production that speaks to different feelings and different situations. Described as genre-bending, the band achieves such distinction on this album, while staying true to the Rockabily-Latin-Country-Americana sound that has solidified them as one of the most popular live acts in the country.

Raul Malo is ever the voice-master on every track, providing a strong voice that can go from tenor to baritone without much effort. Such is evident on the show-starter, Rolling Along, a tune about tough lives being cured by something medicinal. “What’s gonna happen is still gonna happen the one thing that you can count on, don’t fix what ain’t broken while Willie’s still smokin’, we’ll just keep rolling along.” The acordeon, banjo and fiddle make this countrified rancherita one that can easily be sung to around a campfire.

Brand New Day, which has already been getting played on various online services, is quite the love song. Just what is being loved is left up to you. A significant other or a country to which you emigrated or were born in that is in distress (because of some cheeto-lookin’ character, maybe?), the powerful lyrics make it known that whatever it is, it is worth fighting for it. “It’s more than a game I don’t want to lose, there’ll never be another like you.” Powerful.

Following is Easy As It Seems, a rockin’ tune  which has a similar feeling to the title track. With it’s descriptive lyrics, such as, “Take a look around you, it’s easy not to see, building walls between us doesn’t fix a thing, ignorance is blinding, they tell you that it’s bliss, they’ve been saying that for ages so will you answer this:  Do you want to get mean? Do you want to get cruel? Do you think it’s wise to be made the fool?”

What is currently my favorite tune is I Think of You. It has the all the ingredients–amazing musical elements (organ, acordeon, guitar, horns) and Raul Malo’s impeccable vocals. “I see your face lying beside me, and then the trace of  your kiss on my lips always reminds me:  Walks on the blvd, two lovers arm in arm lost in each others’ charms I think of you.” Max Abrams sax-abilities are, as always, noticeable throughout. But as the song heads toward the finish, it is Malo’s uplifting vocal that just brings it home.

Goodnight Waltz brings musical memories of historic waltzes of the past, while offering an uplifting feeling of the kind of love that is to come. The background vocalists sweeten the delivery, along with a beautiful sax solo.

The Latin-tinged rock tune, Damned (If You Do) basically describes life, and even love. “Your heart tells you yes, your mind tells you no, you can’t seem to find, which way you want to go, the moment before you let yourself go, you’ll laugh just to think you’ll do it even though…you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

I Will Be Yours is an Elvis-esque romantic tango with a horn-heavy background that will keep folks swaying. “If you surrender to love so tender, until forever, I will be yours.” Fortunately, it takes a Malo-type to deliver it.  The mariachi-esque trumpets really give the tune the Latinoness it needed to make it quite special. Ride With Me is a bluesy traveling tune that takes you cross-country, while Malo once again proves his chops are unmatched.

The story behind I Wish You Well is one that grabbed me having lost a loved one recently. Written by Malo for his father as he was drifting to his end, the song describes the only thing a son who has done everything for his father can say: “Now you lie before me like a star that fell, oh, I wish you well.” Yes, it’s a tear-jerker, especially if you have, or are about to, lose someone.

The Mavericks picked quite an anthemic end to the album with the country-heavy tune, For The Ages. An ode to long-lasting love, the tune is given some power with some choir-heavy background vocals.

The Mavericks brought out the usual elements to record these tunes live in the Studio, with the help of producer Niko Bolas. They added other instruments to sweeten the music and even give it that extra power to keep the listener wanting more. What is even more evident is the freedom to be creative which comes with releasing an album on their own Mono Mundo Recordings. Although their comeback albums also had that feeling, Brand New Day seems more relaxed and has a fun-filled groove to it.

The Mavericks are:  Raul Malo, Paul Deakin, Jerry Dale McFadden, and Eddie Perez, along with the Fantastic Four, which include acordeonista Michael Guerra, and saxmaster Max Abrams.

Add it to your collection and do attend one or two of their shows. I’ll be in New Braunfels for the April 29 show (which includes Los Lonely Boys and The Last Bandoleros), and The Mavericks will be in Houston in early June at HOB Houston.

 

 

 

La Fiebre Rocks Proof Rooftop

Proof Rooftop Bar and Blackhorse Limo offered up some free live music last night with Pasadena’s own, La Fiebre.

Well known and loved by fans since their heyday 90s, the band has not lost its touch. Musically styled after the rock bands we all grew up with, the style pushes through on their biggest Tejano hits through guitar riffs and tough bass lines coupled with horn and accordion playing that can blow one away.

Should I even provide a song list? Solo Un Sueno, Eres Mi Primer Amor, Labios de Cereza, Siempre, Si Manana Viene O No, El Amor Se Acaba, the list went on. But the crowd response to Borracho de Besos was something special. Equally awesome was their recent hit, Ni El TIempo Podra.

Proof was the perfect location for a mellow crowd who loves Tejano music.  And I would suggest to Proof that they start a Tejano music series. Some of us enjoy coming out to Midtown only to find out that it’s not “$9 beer night.”

Opening band, Grupo Vital, provided an excellent set of covers. Their set-ending rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was something we all needed since we were all singing along.

La Fiebre is:

Vocals– J. Angel Cantu / Accordian & Keyboards– Julian Gonzalez / Trumpet & Sax– Jonas Flores / Drums & Percussion– Gene Luna / Bass Guitar–Joe Reynosa / Trumpet, Sax & Keyboard– Luis Ayala / Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals–Rudy Rocha.

 

 

 

DC Reviews: Joe Posada ~ Zapatos En La Mano

joeposadaJoe Posada, San Antonio’s Jazz and Tejano saxmaster, returns with a full-length production, Zapatos En La Mano, under his own Baby Dude Records. Posada continues to showcase his songwriting skills in this 10-tune album recorded at V-Music with production and arrangements by Grammy winning Gilbert Velasquez.

Posada assembled some of the Alamo city’s best session musicians, including Chente Barrera-Drums; Henry Brun-Percussion; Juanito Castillo-Squeezebox; Chris Guerrero-Keys; Eddy Perez-Bajo Sexto and Bass; Andrew Bergman-Upright Bass; and Gilbert Velasquez-Guitars. Joe Posada, Jr. backs him up on Cafecito De Tus Ojos.

The lead-off single, Tres Opciones, is quite the tune with Posada’s sax and Castillo’s accordion playing off of each other. Joe effectively uses his vocal range to deliver this ranchera. Que Cosas Hizo Dios is a follow-up ranchera which delivers its message with some powerful phrases, like, “que chulada de mujer.” I must admit, I’ve been using that kind of lingo, lately. Odiame is a standard Joe Posada ranchera–sax-heavy and very danceable–with a message to a well-replaced ex.

Posada and Velasquez seem to enjoy chord progressions throughout the album, but they are really noticeable on Palabra De Hombre, a romantic ballad given extra power with some sax and guitar solos and fills. Daring to be different, Hermosura De Mujer gives listeners a bit of bossa nova which, along with Posada’s flute, proves his versatility. Posada throws in a sexy sax instrumental, Nunca Digas Nunca–great when in need of a romantic background.

Posada dares to be different, as always, and it is very noticeable with Zapatos En La Mano‘s jazzy opening toward a solid ranchera Tejana. The tune’s lyrics are written with a little barrio lingo, while proclaiming his rightful place with the subject, despite her late-night antics. Valga La Pena is bolstered by Velasquez’s guitar throughout the song, while the powerful lyrics tell it like it is:  “Si voy a perder el orgullo sera por alguien que valga la pena.” Cafecito De Tus Ojos can easily become ones favorite tune, with its boot-stomping melody, fun lyrics sung by Joe and Joe, Jr., and its bajo sexto and accordion combos.

One of my favorite tunes on the album is El Secreto, a sweet accordion-heavy bolero, with its beautiful lyrics, “Con todo mi respeto, le cuento mi secreto, que por toda eternidad, yo la voy a amar.”

Zapatos En La Mano offers up a much needed Tejano music fix that needs to become part of the daily playlist. Posada offers up some cool tunes that will have you singing in the car and humming them at inopportune times. That’s when you know it’s good music.

I was lucky to catch Joe Posada’s Trio at the River Walk’s 507 Lounge and they’re there every weekend. But I’d sure like to catch the full band playing a couple of hard-core Tejano sets, particularly some of these new tunes. Joe Posada is one of the most respected saxophonists in the music industry and the fact that he continues to grace us with some amazing Tejano music shows his commitment to keeping La Onda strong and relevant.

One may purchase Zapatos En La Mano at JoePosada.com.

 

Democratic Reaction to Passing of SB4

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These Lawbreakers First!

The Texas Senate passed the committee substitute to Senate Bill 4 on Tuesday night. The bill would stop funding state and local government entities who do not federalize themselves for immigrant hunting duties. As reported by Nacho Aguilar at the Texas Trib:

Senate Bill 4, filed by state Sen. Charles Perry, would punish local and state government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws. Wednesday’s vote was 20-10 along party lines, with state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, absent. Rodriguez was present a day earlier, when the Senate tentatively approved it on a 20-11 vote.

The bill would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. Entities in violation would be stripped of state grant funding and also be subject to civil fines. Department heads could also be subject to criminal prosecution if they violate the provisions of the bill. The bill doesn’t apply to victims of or witnesses to crimes, public schools or hospital districts.

Perry added some steroids to the bill.

Perry amended his bill Tuesday to add tough civil and criminal penalties for entities that don’t comply with the bill’s provisions. One amendment would make a department head whose agency violates the provisions of SB 4 subject to criminal prosecution in the form of a class A misdemeanor. Another added a provision that would subject the local agency to civil penalties, including a fine at least $1,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation.

The bill now goes to the Texas House for consideration, amendments, etc. Hopefully, House Speaker Joe Straus doesn’t decide to waste state resources, including those to defend from legal challenges. One can hope, right?

Senate Democrats responded:

 

State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso: “It is clear to me that this is not about public safety. It is about sending a message that immigrants, whether they are legal permanent residents waiting for citizenship, undocumented migrants seeking to join their families, or refugees looking for a chance at a better life, are not welcome.”

State Senator Borris Miles of Houston: “As a former police officer, I know that relationships with communities and police are essential to ensure public safety. I was proud to stand against this measure and vote no. Now, the bill will go to the Texas House of Representatives and I encourage my colleagues there to carefully consider the impact this bill would have on our communities and Texas.”

State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin:  “I love our state. But Texas has a sad, sinful, stained legacy of mistreating people who don’t look like me. This bill and this vote write another ugly chapter in that history.”

 

 

I Guess That’s Why They Call It Marketing

84-lumber-1-e1486347383327Ever since January 20, or maybe November 8, Americans have been trying to find meaning or hope in just about anything. And the Super Bowl was definitely in play.

The anti-Trumpistas were rooting for Atlanta. Hope was sought out from Coca-Cola, AirBNB, and even Audi regarding various issues. Hell, Gaga blew the roof off (or at least opened the roof ) of NRG Stadium. Then there was Journey84, the 5 minute 45 second ad by 84Lumber.

The shorter TV edition was poignant, showing a mother and daughter on a journey to the United States to seek something. For sure, they were escaping something, too. Soon after, there was internet chisme about Fox Sports not allowing parts of the ad or more of the ad. Some thought of the business ramifications of a corporation using this kind of ad on a hot topic. Then one finds the entire ad on YouTube (if the Journey84 site wasn’t working) and then you get a clearer picture.

No doubt, with Trump’s policies, emotions are high, especially on the pro-migrant side. People are marching and protesting policies. So, as the long-ad runs, one is really getting into it. Then as the journey continues, the mother and daughter run into Trump’s wall. A little bit more and there are two beautiful wood doors (wood available at 84Lumber, for sure). For me, it brought a quick memory of the Trump narrative.

But as a consolation, which we suppose counts as a new policy proposal, Trump said he would build a “big beautiful door” in the wall to let in legal immigrants.

No surprise, 84Lumber was attacked by Republicans and white supremacists for letting the door open to migrants. Brown-colored migrants. The 84Lumber’s PR machine began to work. And it sounded like the tried-and-true right-wing narrative where they take a solid opposition to “illegal” immigration and support “legal” immigration, without much of plan of action to fix the “legal” immigration system. And they certainly aren’t for cartels!

See a mother & daughter’s symbolic journey toward becoming legal American citizens.

So, apparently, the beautiful doors stand for US Citizenship and Immigration Services? (You know, where the “back of the line” everyone talks about is?)

The ad campaign would have been more sincere if it had exhibited what the “legal” immigration system looks like today. Decades long backlogs and slow processing times and increased fees in large part are what make the “back of the line” Republican narrative a lie. And with Trump’s policies of walls and deportations, I don’t think the Trump-supportive CEO of 84Lumber really cares about anything regarding migrants. It’s all about their bottom line and their recruitment policies.

But, wow, was that a good ad, right?

There’s a reason corporations spend $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime on Super Bowl Sunday, and it’s not to change bad public policies. If that were the intent, they’d give the money to ACLU, Planned Parenthood, MALDEF, etc. It’s about a return on their investment and nothing else. And if they do it by capturing your heart and mind, and you’re OK with no change in public policy for the better, well, they got you.

Of course, I’m not sure playing both sides of the issue is smart business. It could be that they just wasted $5 million.