Category Archives: Reviews

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)

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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.

 

 

DC Reviews: Los Cenzontles ~ Carta Jugada

Get back to your roots, gente!

And with Carta Jugada, Los Cenzontles have given us a good way to do that.

Joining up with Los Texmaniacs and Flaco Jimenez, Los Cenzontles (a nahuatl word for mockingbird) have given us an amazing album of standards backed up by some amazing accordion, bajo sexto, guitar, tough bass lines and drums. Simple and to the point.

But it’s the voices of Fabiola Trujillo and Lucina Rodriguez that power this album from start to finish. Starting with the old vals Que Sacrificio and bolero Libro Abierto, backed up by Flaco Jimenez, one gets a good feeling about where this album is going. Throw in another Flaco backed ranchera in the classic Hermosimo Lucero and the title track vals and one knows this is a special album.

While Flaco Jimenez is the foremost ambassador of the accordion, one cannot but place Texmaniac Josh Baca close to the top of that list of premier squeezebox players. And his abilities are evident in my favorite tune on the album, La Traicionera, along with the dexterous bajo playing of his Tio Max Baca.

If one is looking for a huapango, one will find it on this album. Lucina and Eugene Rodriguez provide the vocals on Los Juiles, which includes some amazing rhythms and bajo/guitar playing. The corrido, Nomas Las Mujeres Quedan, is a tune about dueling ranch dynasties and about the women who are left. Finally, the closing tune is another favorite sung by Fabiola and Lucina, the beautiful bolero Una Pagina Mas, about a woman ready to leave the past to move forward in love and life.

The album is up at the different online sites. Get your copy now from Amazon or their Online Store.

About Los Cenzontles

Los Cenzontles is a band, a nonprofit organization, a music academy, a community space for youth and families, and a hub for Latino artists – all working together to amplify our Mexican roots here in the Bay Area and beyond.

We produce original music, videos, and educational tools. We teach classes to hundreds of local youth in traditional Mexican music, dance, and arts and crafts. We host many popular community events throughout the year.

Locally, we are a second home for many families and we are a long-standing leader in the Mexican roots revival here in the United States.

Make a contribution to this organization today.

 

DC Reviews: Los Chamacos ~ Este Momento

Jaime y Los Chamacos are back with their next album on the VMB Music Group label, Este Momento. Much like their first album, this one is packed with rancheras and cumbias, new material, and some golden oldies that put JyLC on the map.

The album starts off with rancheras, Mi Cariñito and an oldie, Mi Muñequita. Already memories of dances and concerts at nightclubs, Sea World, and even that huge concert at the UT Erwin Center I once attended in the 90s are returning. Decades and line-up changes later, JyLC have not lost their touch. Jaime de Anda’s accordion style is still among the most recognizable in La Onda.

Their newest hit, though, is a hard-driving cumbia titled El Embrujo, featuring DJ Kane, which should keep club DJs happy and will be a live treat, too. The oldies, though, keep sending us reminders of our dancing days, and El Complejo does not disappoint. JyLC fans do get a new treat with Este Momento, as Jaime de Anda and Destiny Navaira belt out this ranchera, assisted by Destiny’s brother Rigo on bajo sexto. Raulito and her late Tio Emilio are certainly proud.

Los Chamacos’ cumbias are still much enjoyed, so, Esta Güerita and Me Importas Tu will will definitely fill that cumbia need. The latter was once recorded in the 90s and features some nice bajo sexto (Roel Joslin) and accordion dueling. Volvio El Tormento was one of my favorites and is delivered very nicely, along with another ranchera, Pobre Corazon. Finally, the album closes with Jaime’s Favorites, an instrumental medley of polkitas, another specialty of Jaime’s.

Jaime has always ensured a good line-up of musicians, and this one is no different. Los Chamacos are:  Jaime De Anda, Eduardo (Chato) Ordonez, Roel Joslin, Ruben Mendoza, Gilbert Fierros.

Congrats to JyLC and VMB Music on another great production. Get your copy today.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Siggno Joins Rodeo Line-Up

siggno

Copyright Siggno 2016

It’s a dream come true, according to an Instagram post by Jesse Turner, leader and vocalist of Grupo Siggno, who, along with Banda El Recodo, will be performing at RodeoHouston’s Tejano Day. And I must say, this is the closest the Rodeo has come to the Tejano genre in a long time.

Siggno is an acordeon-heavy South Texas Conjunto Norteño outfit out of the Rio Grande Valley. From their bajo-quinto laden rancheras to their heavy bottom bass cumbias to their rock/pop-influenced ballads, Siggno offers a powerful live show from start to finish. And in a shortened kind of show as bands are usually required to provide at the Rodeo, I’d bet Siggno’s will be explosive.

Siggno is currently touring on two albums, the recently released Rockteño and Yo Te Esperare which was released in early 2016. Already going on 15 years in the business, Siggno has enjoyed fan bases throughout the US and Mexico. After a tragic accident seriously injured Turner’s son and bassist, Jacob, they’ve remained busy. No doubt, this March 19 date at NRG Stadium will go down as one of their largest audiences.

Tickets go on sale Saturday, January 14. Click here for ticket site.

I’ve got a soft spot for Siggno because one of my reviews of their albums broke records on my site for visits.

Los Texmaniacs, Flaco, Augie, and Guitar Johnny Conquer The Heights Theater

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Los Texmaniacs brought with them founding Texas Tornados Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers and guitarist Johnny Nicholas and brought down The Heights Theater on Friday, 12/23/16. With a mix of Tex-Mex Conjunto, Tex-Mex Rock, and a dash of Country music, the sell-out crowd at the recently re-opened theater enjoyed a truly Tex-Mex Holiday concert.

Los Texmaniacs, led by Grammy winner Max Baca, solidified their place as Americana Music stars showing a diverse crowd that their music goes above and beyond what is usually expected from a Tex-Mex outfit.

I arrived early to gauge fan conversations, though. I didn’t know what to expect from the fans. The convos I heard ranged from love for Augie to worshipping of Flaco. And that was from the Anglos in the audience. They did ask:  Who are The Texmaniacs? Some were confused as they recalled Augie and Flaco as being part of The Texas Tornados. Boy, did they learn who The Texmaniacs are.

Truth be told, though, Max Baca was part of The Texas Tornados touring band. Beyond that, he’s considered Flaco Jimenez a musical father, a mentor, and even a teacher, back when Max was a kid. Decades later, Max gets to play mentor and teacher to his 24 year-old nephew Josh Baca who is on track to becoming an accordion legend like Flaco.

And, yes, there was music. The Maniacs’ first set was a short one and totally Tex-Mex. Kicking off with Lucerito and an instrumental of El Paso and San Antonio Rose. The usual Tex-Mex history lesson is always interesting which included an instrumental of Muchachos Alegres. Then came some country with How Can A Beautiful Woman Be So Ugly. Emotions ran high with a beautiful rendition of Cancion Mixteca. But there was also a new cumbia about a panadero. Most impressive was Johnny Nicholas providing rhythm guitar to the conjunto tunes, as well as some rockin’ solos.

The second much longer set brought on Augie Meyers to a loud response from the crowd. The talent who gave us Hey Baby Que Paso gifted us with that tune and so many others from his solo and Tornados career. Who Were You Thinking Of was one of my favorites. Of course, tears also “Flo’d” (for me) when Augie took on Mama Came To Visit Me In Texas, with only him and the piano. Little did I know it was about a Mama visiting her son from the afterlife, which hit me pretty hard this holiday season. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Flaco took the stage. He’s had a rough couple of years after a fall and some back and hip surgery, but his 30 minute set was indeed memorable and hard-driving. His accordion playing through Marina and Viva Seguin was impeccable, but it was a couple of tunes that put Flaco on the “mainstream” scene that got a great response. Dwight Yoakum’s Streets of Bakerfield and The Mavericks’ All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down were just amazing. As Flaco ended his part of the show, he thanked the crowd and then broke into a rendition of Feliz Navidad, on which The Texmaniacs easily joined in. And thanks to Flaco’s son who does so much for his daddy.

The rest of the show was rockin’ with a mix of tunes and genres. Danny Martinez on Drums and Noel Hernandez on Bass provided quite the rhythm section, while Augie Meyers stayed on stage with some improv piano accompaniment to conjunto tunes that seemed just right, especially Mexico Americano. (Max didn’t dedicate it to Trump this time, but by that time the beer seemed to be flowing pretty good amongst the crowd.)

All of this earned Los Texmaniacs, Augie, Flaco, and Johnny multiple standing ovations. And deservedly so.

Every time I leave a Texmaniacs gig I ask myself:  Can they get any better? This was my third time seeing them this year and the answer is a resounding YES! Let’s hope promoters keep bringing them back to Houston. Perhaps as an opener for The Mavericks when they come to town again. (One can dream, right?)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y’all!

Los Texmaniacs at Coffee House Live

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Grammy Award winners Los Texmaniacs made a quick trip into Houston to perform and hour-and-a-half set at Coffee House Live at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in West U. Yes, in West U.

A diverse crowd of around 100 enjoyed an equally diverse show by the Tex-Mex Conjunto outfit, which included rancheras, polkas, boleros, country, blues, and rock selections. Throughout the set, each “Maniac” had several opportunities to show off their chops, especially front-man and Bajo legend Max Baca and accordion hero Josh Baca. Noel Hernandez (Bass) and Daniel Martinez (Drums) provided some solid rhythms, too.

Much of the set came from their latest release, Americano Groove, a mix of genres that can only be called Americana music. Como Te Quiero, Herido, How Can A Beautiful Woman Be So Ugly, and Down In The Barrio were performed perfectly, while they also added the reason they earned the Grammy in ’09, Marina, Marina and Cancion Mixteca. Throw in Danzon Juarez, a Chotis, and a Ruben Vela tribute and you’ve got yourself a pretty powerful show.

The musical diversity kept the crowd energized. Personally, I was trying to escape my usual political doings by attending this event, but even Max Baca had to get political with a song dedicated to the orange guy that’s about to move to Washington DC, with the classic, Mexico-Americano. I was proud to throw up a “power to the people” fist as the song was played, even though we Chicanos were outnumbered. Needless to say, it was a great moment after a tough political week.

Max tells me that a new album is set to be released early in 2017, although American Groove continues to grow in popularity as their reach grows. Recently, they’ve toured the coasts, Canana, and the South and will continue to be busy. They’re scheduled to return to Houston on December 23rd for a show that will include Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers at the Heights Theater. DosCentavos will be there! Stay tuned for more information.

 

 

DC Reviews – The Mavericks ~ All Night Live Vol. 1

mavsIt’s like your own personal concert in your Honda Civic.

At least, that was my reaction when I first played the full download of The Mavericks’ first project on their label, Mono Mundo Recordings. All Night Live Volume 1 takes you through a short (compared to their 2.5 hour concerts) journey of hits, some new, some from a 25+ year career that continues to attract fans of all ages.

If you’ve never been to a Mavs’ concert, this album could be a good intro to that kind of experience. The Mavericks add their own live flavor to fan favorites. Although they usually record their albums live in the studio, it’s the live shows where they add a little improv, guitaristics, pumped up squeezebox, bass, piano, and horns. And Paul Deakin’s live drumming is perfect. All of the sounds on the stage come through clearly and impeccably.

Recent single, All Night Long, opens the album with powerful horns and Raul Malo’s vocals which most describe to be “like buttah.” The first 10 of 16 tracks are from their recent works, Mono and In Time. The last third is peppered with classic Malo solo hits, like Every Little Thing About You and I Said I Love You. An eclectic live version of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is an excellent addition. And the show-closers are my personal favorites, Come Unto Me and Waiting For The World To End. The latter with a sped-up ending that knocks your boots off.

All in all, a great first album on their brand new label. Unlike other live albums by other bands, this one is all music, no between-song banter, and definitely no sing-alongs. My kind of live album.

A new studio production is in the works for Spring 2017.