Category Archives: Reviews

Tacho’s Playlist Sabado

Time for some new music to add to the playlist. Enjoy!

La Santa Cecilia – Estrellita – LSC dropped a new tune and video, Estrellita. The video for this cumbia was filmed in Oaxaca and will get one dancing and toe-tapping. Check it out.

Lucky Joe – Me Caiste Del Cielo – From his album, Norteño y Poderoso, filled with classic tunes del pasado, Lucky Joe drops this video of this Cornelio Reyna jewel.

Avizo f/ MarQuell – Te Quiero Te Quiero – Avizo’s latest album, Marching On, highlights the talents of various vocalists. On this Jose Alfredo Jimenez tune, it’s MarQuell’s turn. Of course, we remember him as Mark Ledesma, the former lead vocalist of David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and now one of the frontpersons of LaDezz. I love what they did with this tune–the horns are amazing.

Tacho’s Playlist Saturday

It’s time for another edition of Tacho’s Playlist Saturday where I highlight some of the newest stuff that has appeared on my radar recently. The music can be Tejano, Onda Chicana, Norteno, Americana, or just about anything that I happen to like. So, here is what I like this week:

Demmi Garcia – Con Tu Amor (f/ David Lee Garza)- Demmi Garcia is an accomplished young vocalist who is showing up on various radars. This ranchera is danceable, no doubt, but her vocals are impressive. That shouldn’t be too surprising because of her family music background, as well as achieving a good foundation with her studies at Berklee College of Music. Anyway, watch out for this sensation, who also appeared on Avizo’s newest album with Aventura De Mi Vida. So, you get a two-fer from Demmi.

David Farias – Por Que Quiero Enamorarme De Ti – The legendary David Farias, founding member of Los Hermanos Farias and Tropa F, continues earning airplay from his first solo album with Freddie Records. He dropped this new cumbia a few weeks ago with its Farias legacy sound, yet in tune to today’s music needs.

The Mavericks – Por Ti – One of my fave groups released a bonus track for their En Espanol album, which has gained much cross-cultural attention. The Mavs are also touring on this latest album released at the start of the pandemic. A little back story: The original English version titled For You was released on one of Malo’s solo albums before The Mavericks reunited in 2012. I love this version, though, with the powerful horn section and the squeezebox magic of Michael Guerra.

QEPD – Ruben Cubillos

There were some good articles and tributes posted yesterday for Ruben Cubillos, Tejano Music advocate, graphic/visual artist, and performer, who passed away over the weekend. I never got to meet him, but I knew and appreciated his work. We also became FB friends and I partook of some of the intense and productive conversations he would start on the state of the Tejano Music genre.

Regarding articles, check out Tejano Nation and Joey Guerra’s piece in the Chron. My FB friend and Austin PR exec Paul Saldana also had one on FB.

If you’ve ever bought a Selena tee, poster, album, or anything with her logo, you owe it to Ruben Cubillos. Ruben put Tejano music imagery on the map, developing concepts and images for Tejano music album covers when the big record companies were finally investing in the genre in the early 90s. Bands like Mazz, David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and Selena enjoyed his top-notch and creative concepts, which added much value to their albums.

Along with his professional PR career and his career as a vocalist with the legendary Latin Breed, he was also an advocate. Always willing to offer up some advice to up and coming musicians, he never candy coated it. He was quite honest, especially when it came to how a band should develop their image. Especially during the forced break during the pandemic. But he was also an advocate.

Ruben was one of the leaders of those demanding the HoustonRodeo bring back Tejano music acts after it decided to concentrate on regional Mexican and banda acts. Beyond this, the protests were also about pay parity for Latino acts, equity in distribution of scholarships given from the thousands of dollars made from sold out concerts, and more diversity in rodeo committees. Well, Tejano is still missing from the line-ups, the undocumented are still passed over for scholarship money, even though that’s who attends the banda music concerts, but the message was sent to the rodeo people and Ruben was one of the chief advocates. All the rodeo people did was whine that anyone would complain.

Anyway, Ruben was one of the good ones in an industry that has historically been taken advantage of by corporatism, whether it came from Miami-owned radio stations, LA-based record companies, or corporations who used it to make a buck. When the profits slowed, the genre was cut-off and left to die. But much was learned and the music and culture continues. And Ruben is one of the reasons it continues.

Gracias, Ruben.

New Tunes For Your Playlists

When there is new music I like, whether it’s Tejano, Americana, Rock, or anything, I’ll try to share it on the weekend. A few tunes came out this week that caught my ear. They are already on heavy rotation in my car. Click on the link on the song title to give it a listen. [Figured out how to add the vid, too!]

Intocable – The Zapata-based group released a new tune this week. Jamas Te Soltare is a country-esque danceable ranchera-like tune.

Los Lobos – The boys from LA released an album of covers–an ode to the city of their birth. Native Sons takes us to different places with various tunes made famous by LA bands and musicos. One of my faves is the samba, Los Chucos Suaves, written by Lalo Guerrero. Los Lobos add an original tune, Native Son, written by their own Louis Perez which sums up LA, especially in their video.

La Santa Cecilia (f/ Lila Downs) – That other group from LA offers up a nice cumbia featuring the powerful vocals of La Marisoul and Lila Downs. The accompanying video filmed in Oaxaca offers up some fun, as well as a twist at the end.

Daniel Valdez, David Hidalgo, Eugene Rodriguez – Los Siento Mi Vida is a beautiful trio-style break-up song written by Linda Ronstadt and her father. You might recognized Daniel as Ritchie’s cool uncle on La Bamba (and also co-founder of Teatro Campesino), David from Los Lobos, and Eugene from the band and cultural education nonprofit, Los Cenzontles. Enjoy!

The Newest in Tejano Music

Obviously, if you need the best day-to-day news about Tejano music and culture, you should visit Tejano Nation. But I have my favorites, too, and some of those faves have been releasing new material. Here are a few that hit my radar (and Spotify playlist):

Jay Perez – The Voice is back with an amazing production, El Maestro. Along with that voice is a team of musicians and songwriters who helped put together something to enjoy from start to finish. The first single, Eres, is a Perez-penned tune that keeps that legacy sound we all expect. Cumbias, like Mi Duena and Aun Te Extrano give Perez a whole new dimension, but it is Norteno-lite tunes like Juan Trevino’s Ya Se Fue and Entiendo that will surely expand his audience into Mexico. My fave, though, is the Joe Revelez-composed Para Volvernos Amar, with Jay’s soaring vocals. It’s a must-have!

La Fiebre – Speaking of legacy sound, The Pride of Pasadena continues to offer up that rock-tinged Tejano sound with Historico. The trumpets are as strong as ever, backed up by strong bass lines, guitar rhythms and powerful drumming. The first single, Mendigo, written by the legend Freddie Martinez, Sr., gives you that Borracho de Besos feel, while their newest single, Cuidala, takes you back to that No Cure era where the sound really took off. Cumbias like Mira, with its rock guitar and soaring trumpets should definitely become a crowd favorite.

Gary Hobbs, David Marez, Joe Posada – Onda Chicana big band, La 45 (produced by Mike Torres, III and John Ontiveros) back up three vocal legends of la Onda Tejana on this Hector Gutierrez-penned tune, Querida. Each voice has its own quality that, when put together, creates something special. The only question: Where’s the rest of the album and tour? And, yes, Posada provides some excellent sax riffs and solos.

Shelly Lares – What is said to be her final album as she heads into retirement, LMD82 celebrates Lares’ 40 years in La Onda Tejana. Little Miss Dynamite explodes with some horn-driven rancheras and cumbias. Salsipuedes spent most of the pandemic earning airplay, as well as Por Amor. Enamorada, though, seems to be my fave. The album offers up multiple samples of her genre-defying versatility, including a duet with David Marez (Mi Persona Favorita) and a quartet, the mariachi-backed, Nada De Ti, featuring Lares and up and coming female vocalists, Sonja de la Paz, Monica Saldivar, and Demmi Garcia. The newest trio-version of Mil Besos is a treat, too. In conclusion, Don’t Retire Shelly!

All of these are available on all platforms, but give a musician a lift and buy the tunes!

DC Reviews: The Mavericks – En Español

For tried and true fans of The Mavericks, En Español has been a long-awaited work. Since their founding, The Mavericks have offered up some Spanish tunes belted out by their leader, Raul Malo, at their performances. More than a few times, fans have asked them when a Spanish-language album would be released. Well, it’s here and it doesn’t disappoint.

Their live playlist is so diverse that they are considered multi-genre (and Americana) with performances sprinkled with country, tex-mex, cuban, rock, jazz, and other rhythms, which says a lot about their collective musicianship. Whether it’s the dueling guitars of Malo and LA-born guitarist Eddie Perez, the tickled ivories of Jerry Dale McFadden, or the diverse drumming of Paul Deakin, or their sidemen, they can play anything–sometimes, at a moment’s notice.

En Español is an eclectic mix of Latin rhythms and American sounds that only The Mavericks could put together in an honest and sincere fashion. Songs of love and heartbreak abound on this collection, as well as Cuban folk and classic ones from another time.

Classic songs, such as La Sitiera, Sombras, Mujer, and Sabor A Mi are already well-known at their concerts and previous Raul Malo solo works. Yet, they’re given a new and bold flavor that fills ones ears and hearts.

The first single, Poder Vivir, a ska-ish-tinged song backed by the sweet accordion sound of Michael Guerra, has already been making the rounds on radio and various other platforms. In fact, it’s already reached the top of some Tejano music charts, which shows their ability to penetrate markets beyond their usual audience. Recuerdos features that signature Mavericks sound that has fans swaying at their concerts.

Another favorite tune is the danceable (for us Tex-Mex folk)  Julia Iglesias tune, Me Olvide de Vivir, along with the mariachiesque No Vale La Pena, made famous by Juan Gabriel and given quite the squeezebox assist by the legendary Flaco Jimenez and the trumpets of Julio Diaz and Lorenzo Molina. Another cover is a Spanish-version of Englebert Humperdink’s Man Without Love, Cuando Me Enamoro.

But it’s the haunting and heart-wrenching Pensando En Ti, backed by the requinto and the accordion, that will have one thinking about love lost and searching for a drink. Finally, they offer up some Cuban folk music with the Celia Cruz tune, Pinar del Rio, in case you haven’t danced enough.

NPR has a great article on some Mavericks history and the process of making this album, as does TejanoNation. My FB friend Hector Saldaña at the Express-News delves into it, too.

En Español is available on all platforms, but, since bands aren’t touring, drop them a few bucks and buy the album and their merch at their website.

Also, The Mavericks will be performing a live, pay-per-view concert at Nugs.tv on Saturday, August 22, featuring the new material from En Español. As I’ve always said, any Mavs performance is an experience, even from the comfort of your own couch.

La*45 II and Tejano Music During the COVID19 Hiatus

Tejano Music isn’t just a genre of music. It’s a way of life. A part of our Chicano culture. Musica that grew from singing old songs while picking crops, at family fiestas, and around a huge fire in the back yard. A music and culture that has thrived and struggled, much like its listeners.

And having been a listener and hard-core fan since my first Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos concert at a school stadium in Crystal City, TX in ’77, it’s a way of life that I’ve enjoyed and have had to help defend from corporate types (and local rodeos and finicky fair-weather fans) that simply want to kill it for whatever reason. Well, even during The ‘Rona, La Onda continues to breathe and it breathes life into stay-at-home fans.

Yes, watching the Cheeto Jesus ruminate about bleach injections can cause one to easily spiral. But thanks to some of my favorite bands and musicians, mental health has been within reach of my cell phone or my laptop as these músicos set-off to survive during this pandemic. Livestreamed concerts by artists like Los Texmaniacs (Max and Josh), Michael Guerra of The Mavericks, David de La Garza (of La Mafia), and others have provided some respite from the current situation. Gracias a Dios for all of this talent that many of us take for granted.

But these concerts aren’t free, although, they’re not forcing you to pay. These bands have been knocked off their tour buses and have taken to opening up Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp accounts so they can make some survival money as their livelihood instantly dried up in March. So, if you see a livestream concert with a payment link, give a little! “No sean codos,” as my Pop used to say.

All of this said, I was so happy when I saw that one of my favorite bands, La*45, was going live on Facebook to present their new production, La*45 II. No, it wasn’t a concert, but a listening session from their recording studio. It was intimate and full of studio and road stories, along with some pretty lofty conversation about music-making and theory. It was mind-blowing, though I think we would have been left in tatters if they’d not been as humble about their talents.

La 45, self-dubbed “the NextGen Chicanos,” is one of those special bands made up of the usual pieces, but also with a powerful 5-piece horn section. Yes, one of those big bands that bring up memories of Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia, Latin Breed, The Royal Jesters, and Tortilla Factory. Compadres Mike Torres III and John Ontiveros, La Familia alums, have put together some pretty impressive elements that not only record great music, but reproduce it live to near-perfection. And their long-awaited 3rd album is finally here.

The first single, Como Me Alegro, was released a year ago while production continued on the album. A hard-driving ranchera with excellent use of the horns and an accordion break, it’s one of those tunes that floats you to the dance floor. Another single is both a tribute to and a collab with the King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe Hernandez, Traigo Mi .45. Yes, the band is named for this classic tune and Torres, III and Hernandez trade-off on delivering the lyrics. A similarly classic-sounding tune is Asi Lo Quisiste, with the addition of harmonies from Torres, III’s better half, Amy, and an amazing sax solo.

The horn section gets quite the workout with a couple of sweeping tunes:  The  cumbia, Cumbia de la Media Noche and a samba, La .45 Anthem. The anthem includes some amazing drumming, trumpet, sax and guitar solos from Will O’Rourke, John Ontiveros, Ricky Ray Hernandez, and Estevan Ramirez, respectively. Moriria Por Ti has a Roberto Pulido-feel to it with its dual sax performance and Tejano cumbia sound. [Shout out to Ricky Ray for being a Texas State Bobcat!]

Although the album has an R&B feel, it is How Could This Happen, that shows off that ability–vocally and musically. La 45 is known for their ability to move from Tejano to Cumbia to R&B and back in a live setting.

Solo Un Juguete, with its Steve Gadd drum intro and keyboard-heavy melody, brought memories of the 80s which saw the introduction of synthesizers to La Onda. [Side Note:  Mazz did a similar drum intro in 1984 with the intro to Ay Muchacha from the Standing Ovation album, for all those historians out there.] Mike and Amy Torres collab on another modernized classic, Con La Misma Tijera. Herbie Lopez’s organ backdrop injects the classic sound into the tune. Que Bonito, offers a jazzy tenor sax intro by Hernandez before heading into a signature ranchera.

All in all, La 45 II is a nice package of cruizin’ music that soothes and causes general happiness. At least, that’s what it did for me. And, next time there’s a super dance in San Antonio produced by Henry Pepsi Peña and featuring La 45, we’re there!

One more thing. The eye-catching artwork on the cover and in the liner notes is by Chicana artist Bianca Mireles. She’s a West Texan who is now based in New Hampshire. Check out her work on her insta.

And get your copy of La 45 II at La45Music.com. You can get the digital version for $10, or, for $15 download it and receive the CD in a week or so. I did the latter.

 

 

 

 

Get Your Tejano Music Gifts

Well, we are deep into the Christmas holidays, but you can still order or download the latest releases from the top Tejano and other influential acts. It’s been a good year for music and the live acts that play it. I’m looking forward to a fruitful 2020.

Here are a few albums I recommend:

  • Intocable – Percepción. The Zapata-based Intocable just won a Latin Grammy for their latest release and are nominated for a Grammy for it. Already enjoying much success with singles, such as No Van A Entender, Me Dueles, and Quedate Conmigo, the album is sure to score more hits as the band hits the road in 2020 for the next leg of the Percepcion tour.
  • Gary Hobbs – Lo Que Amo. The long awaited release from el borrado de Eagle Pass is enjoying some airplay of its title track single. With tunes, such as Perdoname and Quizas Yo, Hobbs has a strong set of tunes to complement his decades of popular hits. And he still puts on a great live show.
  • Jay Perez – 25th Anniversary. The Voice is back with hard-driving tunes like Contigo, Invitame, Tu (featuring DLG), and the cumbia, Recordare, just to name a few. It’s a well-produced album that will keep your toes tapping. And one is reminded why they call him The Voice!
  • La Santa Cecilia. LSC’s self-titled album isn’t Tejano, but it should be on your list. The LA-based band offers a mix of pop, rock, disco, and raza influenced tunes, such as Always Together, A Thousand Times, and Winning, while one also gets a dose of 20s styled music with Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out. It’s an EP that is worth being in the collection.
  • Los Palominos – Con La Fuerza De Un Huracan. Known for their South Texas conjunto stylings and vocal harmonies, Los Palominos keep their formula intact. Already enjoying success with the title track, they recently released a video for ranchera, Corazon Aventurero. My fave is the country-influenced Mas de Ti. It’s a must-have for the collection.
  • The Mavericks – Play The Hits. The latest by Nashville-based Americana band is a tribute to various hits. Kickin’ it off with John Anderson’s Swingin’, they move through various points in history with Blame It On Your Heart, Before The Next Teardrop Falls, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. The closer, Leaving It Up To You, leaves one wanting more. It’s got horns, accordion, a tough rhythm section, and Raul Malo’s voice.
  • Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm. Los Desperadoz are back after a long wait with their signature conjunto sound. Featuring rancheras and cumbias, the album offers Mi Vida Sin Ti, Dame Tu Amor, Otra Vez En Mi Sueño, and other danceable tunes. Make it yours, and find a venue where Los Desperadoz play this stuff live. You will not be disappointed.

Look for them online and get your money’s worth.

Los Texmaniacs’ Cruzando Borders To Be Released on May 11

With anti-Mexican hate on the rise, I haven’t felt too bloggy lately. If anything, it’s been down-right depressing. Trump is militarizing the border, again. (Remember, Obama did it in 2010 to appease Republicans.) So, what’s the best way to respond to this kind of pendejismo? Musica y cultura always works for me!

So, when Los Texmaniacs posted on their social media that their upcoming album will be released on May 11, 2018, happiness ensued! Cruzando Borders, on the Smithsonian Folkways Recording label, will offer up some hard-core Tex-Mex Conjunto stylings featuring various themes and messages. Here’s the text of a recent article on the album:

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is proud to release ‘Cruzando Borders’ from the GRAMMY Award-winning conjunto group Los Texmaniacs, including dynamic feature performances from fellow GRAMMY winners Lyle Lovett, Rick Fuentes and Rick Treviño. This is the band’s third album for the label, following 2012’s ‘Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds’ and 2009’s ‘Borders y Bailes.’ On the 14-song ‘Cruzando Borders,’ Los Texmaniacs remain close to their conjunto roots, and the result is a joyous, poignant work that grows in meaning with each listen. The release is a fitting addition to Smithsonian Folkways’ 70th year anniversary celebration.

Listen to a 3-song sampler.

The band is quick to point out that ‘Cruzando Borders’ is more than music; it was crafted to send a message. Prompted by negative public rhetoric about the U.S.-Mexican border and Mexican culture, and inspired by the transcendent brotherhood and exquisite beauty of the border life they have experienced, Los Texmaniacs have created an album that asserts pride in both their native Mexican culture and U.S. nationhood. 

Bajo sexto master Max Baca, who cut his teeth with the hit-making, crossover band The Texas Tornados, founded Los Texmaniacs in 1997. He sought to form a group that espoused the traditions of Tejano music he grew up with and combined them with elements of blues, rock, country and jazz. He enlisted his nephew, Josh Baca, a highly skilled accordion player who, on Max’s urging, absorbed the fundamental style and repertoire of the deep conjunto tradition – old-time Tejano polkas, redovas, chotises(schottisches), waltzes and huapangos – to create what Josh calls his “Texas gumbo – my own posole” (Mexican hominy soup).

The Bacas added drummer and multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Martínez, who brought to Los Texmaniacs a style that incorporated both Mexican and Chicano cultures as well as American grooves (he’s a hardcore James Brown fan). Next came multi-instrumentalist Noel Hernández, who developed his skills as a performer deep in the heart of conjunto country in the Rio Grande Valley. Hernández’s virtuosic abilities and vast musical heritage made him a natural fit.

While ‘Cruzando Borders’ sees Los Texmaniacs rededicating themselves to the sounds that first influenced them, it is by no means an exercise in rote traditionalism; you can feel the band finding new facets in the conjunto form. On the crackling instrumental “La chicharronera,” Max and Josh duet majestically on bajo sexto and accordion while paying tribute to the song’s composer, Narcisco Martínez. That track, along with the zesty chotís (schottische) “Labios de coral” and the redova “El porrón,” point to the enduring social dance tradition that goes along with the music.

Throughout the album, on rousing cuts such as “Pablo de monte” and “El bracero fracasado,” a bold narrative emerges as the band explores the often tragicomic tales of cross-border life. On the aching ballad “Across the Borderline,” made famous by Willie Nelson and Freddy Fender, Max Baca’s supple voice is the perfect counterpoint for guest singer Rick Fuentes as they imagine a life where “every street is paved with gold, and it’s just across the borderline.” Lyle Lovett, who has worked with Baca in the super-group Los Super Seven, lends his plaintive vocals on the wistful campfire folk tune “Deportee,” with its evocative lyrics penned by Woody Guthrie. (Guthrie was inspired by a 1948 news article about a plane crash involving 28 unnamed migrant Mexican farm laborers who were being repatriated. The song itself has recently been featured in the news after artist Tim Z. Hernandez revealed the deportees’ real identities.) 

The delicate yet defiant country-laced ballad “I Am a Mexican” boasts lead vocals by its writer, Rick Treviño, also a Los Super Seven compatriot, and Max Baca calls it “a perfect example of the whole concept of this album. It says, ‘I am a Mexican, and God bless America.'” “Mexico Americano” is an irrepressibly upbeat polka peppered with Max and Noel’s passionate singing. Summing up why it’s the album’s opening track, Josh Baca says, “It’s a beautiful song because it identifies who we are. My grandparents on my mother’s side were born and raised in Mexico and moved over here to America to better their lives. That side of my family taught me that there’s more to life than just playing the accordion…values in life, morals. And the record represents that.”

With ‘Cruzando Borders,’ Los Texmaniacs make good on their mission to champion their musical and cultural heritage with deep, abiding pride and dazzling artistry. The album is as inspiring and soul enriching as it is timely and timeless. 

‘Cruzando Borders’ Track List:

1. Mexico Americano (Mexican American)

2. La pajarera (The Bird Vendor)

3. El bracero fracasado (The Failed Bracero)

4. I Am a Mexican

5. El porrón (The Slow Mover)

6. En avión hasta Acapulco (To Acapulco by Plane)

7. Deportee

8. Soy de San Luis

9. La chicharronera (The Pork Cracklings Maker)

10. Across the Borderline

11. Valentín de la sierra

12. Don Luis el Tejano

13. Pablo de monte (Pablo from the Hills)

14. Labios de coral (Lips of Coral)

DC on Tejano Nation

Every now and then I get a bit jaded and annoyed with the whiny-ness in politics, so, I seek out music to soothe me. I was happy to submit a couple of music reviews to Tejano Nation last week. Go check them out.

Out of the RGV is Veronique Medrano’s Loteria. A great collection of songs by a talented vocalist.

And The Pride of Pasadena returns as La Fiebre gives us quite the Fiesta.

Click on those links to read the reviews! And make Tejano Nation a part of your daily life.