Category Archives: Reviews

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.

 

Festival Chicano Saturday: Shelly Lares, Ram Herrera, and David Lee Garza

culturaThe final night of Festival Chicano brought out a lot of people, as always, but I’d never seen the Hill at Miller Outdoor Theater as packed as it was. The crowd, the energy, and the talent on Saturday made for a pretty special night.

shellyTejano icon Shelly Lares, still looking as young as when she started, reminded us that she was about to celebrate 34 years of being in the biz. It reminded me that I’d been a fan pretty much from the beginning of her recording career, at about the same time that another young talent was about to take the business by storm–Selena. They were buds, by the way. Lares and her band started out strong with a medley of cumbias, and she peppered the set with medleys of ranchera hits along the way. Tunes from the 90s through today were strong on the set-list:  Soy Tu Amor, Ganas de Besarte, Es Que Estoy Enamorada, Mil Besos, Yo Quiero Saber and more. Volver Volver brought the house down, while her show-closing rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was impressive. Lares showed much appreciation for the fans–and in this industry it’s the fans that keep the music alive.

ramherreraTejano crooner and David Lee Garza y Los Musicales alum Ram Herrera took the stage with The Outlaw Band and provided a powerful show of new and classic hits from his solo and Musicales career. Already on year 35 of a storied Tejano music career, Ram Herrera still has that magical voice. Amor Querido, La Mancha, Rosas Para Una Rosa, Ahora Dile, Entre Cantina y Cantina, Tragos Profundos, Tejanita, Yo Soy, The Chair, Amor y Besos…you know them all. He also offered up a couple of new tunes:  Eres Mi Todo and Donde Estara. With a solid band backing him, he kept the crowd excited and singing along.

davidleecezDavid Lee Garza is credited with launching the careers of Ram Herrera, Jay Perez, Marcos Orozco, and the late Emilio Navaira. Lately, he’s offered up a series of young vocalists who keep the band busy. Cezar Martinez has a unique voice that stays strong throughout a performance and last night was no different. From singing the early hits that were voiced by Herrera and Navaira to the 90s smashes of Perez and Orozco, Martinez delivered impressively. Los Musicales, in business for over 40 years, provided some amazing play that not many bands can equal live. New hits like El Privilegio (which included songwriter Juan Treviño on the bajo) and Niña Coquetera were positioned among classic tunes like Cuatro Caminos, De Que Te Quejas, Me Vuelvo Enamorar, Paloma Sin Nidal, Hasta Cuando, Dos Corazones, oh, the list goes on. We’ve come to love these guys because they’re humble, talented, and all about the music. And that’s exactly what they gave another packed house at Festival Chicano.

Congrats to Daniel Bustamante and the Festival Chicano crew on a 37th feat of musical awesomeness. No doubt, thousands of Chicanos were happy with the end-product, and we anxiously await the 38th. If anything, you may want to add a Sunday tardeada next year. (Kidding!) We just can’t get enough of our cultura.

Festival Chicano Friday: Little Joe, Latin Breed, and Isabel Marie

Friday was another big night for La Onda Chicana. Thanks to Festival Chicano organizer, Daniel Bustamante, this one was one for the history books.

The evening began with a reminder from Bustamante:  Tejano is not dead. As much as the gringos in the business or the gringos at the rodeo want to tell us, it’s just not true. Thousands attending a weekend series of concerts ought to tell everyone this. Is it a struggle? Of course! But one only has to watch the musicians on stage to show that they love what they do. And the crowd loves them for it.

The most poignant reminder of the struggle was when Bustamante brought out the producer/promoter for 13 year-old Isabel Marie–one of the newest additions to the Tejano music industry. Abraham Quintanilla came out and offered a few words and also reminded us of that awful day 21 years ago. But that through all that has affected his family he continues to seek out and offer new talent shows his determination. Tejano isn’t dead.

isabelmarieIsabel Marie took the stage first and offered up a set of cumbias, rancheras, and even wowed us with her rendition of Selena’s No Me Queda Mas. At 13, she has a pretty powerful voice. As a stage performer, she is poised, but at 13, she also shows off that awkward stage a teen goes through. (If a crowd applauded me, I’d be a little geek’d out, so it’s understandable.) Still, she showed range, emotion, and the ability to keep a crowd engaged for an entire show. Great job, Isabel Marie. Keep at it!

adalbertoThe Legendary Latin Breed was up next with Adalberto Gallegos at the helm. Hundreds of years of experience took the stage–even Adalberto was a member at age 19 in 1976. Kicking off with 1988’s Latin Breed Medley, they continued on to Yo Lo Comprendo, Todos Dicen, and even ventured one of Adalberto’s solo hits from 1990, Tristes Recuerdos and a hit that I once owned on a 45 rpm record (kids, look that up), El Cisne. Adalberto wowed us with If You Need Me, too. All of this backed up by a precision-based horn section and the bass action of Stanley Revillas and guitaristics of Steve Velasquez.

littlejoeThe crowd loved every performance, but there was no doubt that they were waiting for The King of the Brown Sound–Little Joe. Another band of highly experienced, highly disciplined musicians, La Familia took off in fine form with a medley of Little Joe’s best ballads–Rebelde, Recuerdas Querido Amigo, and Por Un Amor. Then came Redneck Mes’kin Boy and Mi Nena. Then came some blues music with Lonely, Lonely Nights, which Little Joe delivered impressively, backed up by amazing horn and guitar action. Bass master Mike Torres, III delivered on cumbia El Alacran and percussionist Sam Jones on My Girl. The night continued with hit after hit, including Cartas Marcadas, and the big finish with Las Nubes and Borrachera. Of course, the encore brought folks back to their seats and then to their feet with a sing-a-long of Jose Alfredo’s classic, Ella.

In between, Little Joe reminded the crowd of thousands to register to vote–Mi Familia Vota will be there all three nights. Of course, he also gave ol’ Trump a tongue lashing, including, “Vamos a darle en la madre a Trump!” which basically is the equivalent of, “Let’s knock him the f*** out!” Great crowd response to that. Finally, Little Joe’s white duds were in honor of El Leon de la Sierra, Alfonso Ramos, who passed away this last week.

chicharronesNo doubt, by the end of a La Familia gig, one is tired but oh so happy. And after three performances by everything from new talent to two bands that have been around for five decades, one can take a Saturday morning to re-energize with some chicharrones con huevos and then return to Miller Outdoor Theater in the evening for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Ram Herrera and The Outlaw Band, and Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.

Festival Chicano Thursday: David Marez, Los Monarcas, Elida Reyna

Well, I’m going for a record. I’ll attend all three nights of Festival Chicano 2016 and write a review for each night. Festival producer Daniel Bustamante never fails and filling each night with the best Tejano talent, but 2016 seems to be pretty special, and Thursday truly was.

losmonarcasThe evening opened up with conjunto titans Los Monarcas de Pete y Mario Diaz. Spanning three generations and five decades of existence, the band took the stage and played a one-hour non-stop gig. Ranchera after Ranchera, Los Monarcas took us through various hits and conjunto standards. They threw in a couple of cumbias, but returned to their tried and true foot-stomping rancheras. It was a great start to the festival.

davidmarezNext up, the legendary Voz de Oro, David Marez and his band People. Marez took us from his new material off of his Tejano Music Award nominated album, Groovin’ (No Soy El Mismo and Le Meneas), to his 80s and 90s hits (No Se A Donde Ni Con Quien and Dile Tu), and all the way back to his younger days as a member of The Royal Jesters (Yo Soy Chicano).

Beyond that golden voice and awesome musicians, he showed much appreciation for the crowd, which gave that appreciation right back. Acknowledging 37 years of Festival Chicano, he gave us all a lesson:  Tejano is our music and where we’re from, but we are Chicanos. That hit me right in the feels.

elidaproud2b

Credit: Proud2BTejano (FB)

Tejano Diva Elida Reyna and Avante hit the stage while I was waiting on David Marez to get a photo and have a short conversation with him, but one could hear the music as Reyna also went through some of her hits–rancheras, cumbias, and ballads–earning a pretty loud response from the crowd. Unfortunately, no pics of her performance by this blogger, but I did borrow this one from Proud2BTejano–the kids love Elida’s power-packed performances. There are some pics out there on the internets, though.

Next review is for Friday’s line-up of Little Joe, Adalberto Gallegos and The Latin Breed, and new singing sensation Isabel Marie. Stay connected!

2 DC Reviewed Albums Earn Latin Grammy Noms

tejanolatingrammynoms2016As my friends at Tejano Nation posted this week, the Latin Grammy noms are out, and in the Tejano Album category, two DosCentavos reviewed albums are nominated. Maybe they read my stuff, maybe it’s because the albums are just that good, but congrats to Ram Herrera (VMB Music Group) and Jay Perez (Freddie Records) on the nomination.

On Ram’s Mucho Mas Que Amor:  I’ve got to admit:  When I read the announcement that Grammy winning producer Gilbert Velasquez and Tejano great Chente Barrera partnered up to form VMB Music Group, I expected them to produce some amazing material, but Ram Herrera’s Mucho Mas Que Amor is one of those productions that has staying power.

On Jay’s Un Amigo Tendras:  Tejano crooner Jay Perez is back with his long-awaited release, Un Amigo Tendras. After riding the radio waves with the title track, a smooth sax-driven cumbia, we get to enjoy the other 11 tunes. That’s right–12 tunes on this Freddie Records release. Produced by Mario Ortiz, this new production really hits the spot.

Both albums get some serious rotation on “Radio DosCentavos,” AKA my car stereo.

Also gaining a Latin Grammy nomination are LA’s La Santa Cecilia for Buenaventura for Best Pop/Rock Album.

Congrats to the nominees. The Latin Grammy telecast will be on November 17.

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.

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.