Category Archives: Cultura Chicana

DC Reviews ~ Michael Guerra Band

Some may know accordion ace Michael Guerra from his days with Los Texmaniacs, Ruben Ramos, Rick Trevino, the Tex-Mex Experience, or his session appearances with Los Lobos, the Texas Tornados, Los Lonely Boys, or others. His recent work with Raul Malo and, now, The Mavericks, are what caught my attention in recent years. The guy is just plain good, as he’s been playing accordion since his mid-teens. Beyond that, he can play several other instruments, truly making his stage presence known.

Guerra and his band just released their debut and self-titled CD. Guerra has produced a style all his own, yet, one cannot help but notice the various influences, be it conjunto, rock, blues, mariachi, or country. It’s all in this eclectic production which fuses into something better than most attempts at “latin fusion.” This one has a special vibe to it.

Kicking off with Voodoo Lady, one notices the rock influences, with Robert Ybarra’s haunting guitar blending with Guerra’s accordion. One may think Los Lonely Boys, thus making the tune quite Texican, but it’s all Guerra and his band. The country tune, My Love’s Too Big (To Fail) caught my attention with the title (I’m in politics, sue me!). In this tune, one immediately notices Guerra’s San Anto influence.

The Los Lobos’ musical influence pops out with La Prietita Loca, with its cumbia rhythm. Of course, the hook, “La Prietita baila muy suave…pero cuando se junta con las chicas se pone muy loca,” is quite catchy. Dreams Gone Blue has a country-mariachi-trio feel to it with some excellent lyrics–and it sounds like it could have been picked up off the cutting-room floor of a Raul Malo CD and given its own flavor.

Let’s Try seems to have a style all its own with a slow rock groove, and is a good introducer to The Who’s Mama’s Got a Squeezebox. The Who could have used a Michael Guerra back then, who really shows off his technique on this tune, as done Ybarra on the guitar solo. On the next tune, Guerra returns to a country-esque/mariachi style with Break Away. The old-style music with modern lyrics make this a favorite.

Guerra does not forget the music that put him on the map–conjunto. And Que Viva Mi San Antonio provides a nice tune with quite the visual of partying in San Anto. Showing his partiality to trio/mariachi stylings, Guerra belts out the classic La Barca backed up by his acordeon, guitars and requinto, showing off his vocal abilities.

The bluesy-rock tune You Set Me Free shows off Ybarra’s guitar again, while telling the story of being set free by a woman who seems to have made the wrong choice.  Ain’t it always the way?

Guerra’s biggest influence and the reason for his music career is his dad Elias. Mike began toiling on various instruments before picking up the instrument that set the path for his career–the acordeon. That said, Mike brings in his dad for the final tune, Dame Un Nuevo Corazon, a gospel song with an acordeon-heavy bolero feel.

It is safe to say that this production is a venture through Guerra’s various influences, yet, it is his signature accordion which sets it apart. This is a great first full production for Guerra. Of course, he’ll have a hard time touring to support it since he’s working hard with The Mavericks at the moment. No doubt, he is going through some career-building experiences.

A DC First: DC Reviewed 4 of 5 Latin Grammy Nominees

The Latin Grammys announced their nominees today, including my favorite category, Best Tejano Album. In a Dos Centavos first, I’m proud to announce that I reviewed 4 of the 5 nominated albums. Either my reviews are being read by some important people, or my ear for music is pretty good. Here they are:

Best Tejano Album (Linked to DC Review)

Algo Esta Pasando – Joe Posada [Baby Dude Records]

The Voice Of Authority – Jay Pérez [Tejas Records]

Back On Track – Los Hermanos Farias [Ro Records]

Sunset Run – Los Desperadoz [Tejas Records]

Mas Amigos – Avizo [Powerhouse Records]

Big congrats to the nominees. They are all among my favorite artists.

Houston – 33rd Annual Festival Chicano in October

That’s right! The best three-day Tejano/Chicano music fest in Houston, the 33rd Festival Chicanois back on October 4, 5, and 6 at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Thanks to Daniel Bustamante, the 33rd year of this Festival will be just as awesome as the 32 before it.

The line-up this year is pretty stellar:

THURSDAY, October 4th – Jaime y Los Chamacos, Ruben Ramos & The Mexican Revolution, Avizo
FRIDAY, October 5th – Little Joe y La Familia, Gary Hobbs, AJ Ybarra y Los Bandoleros
SATURDAY, October 6th – Emilio Navaira, Hermanos Farias, Marquel

As always, all shows are FREE, curtains up at 7pm! — at Miller Outdoor Theatre.

Obviously, the return of Emilio Navaira is something that is awaited, but since I’ve recently reviewed the new release of Los Hermanos Farias, they deserve a plug. Of course, I’m also interested in checking out former Musicales vocalist, Marqell, who has a pretty good single, Esperate.

Little Joe is back, and he has played at almost every single one of these fests. El Borrado de Eagle Pass, Gary Hobbs, never fails to put on a strong live performance, as well as Los Chamacos. The legendary Ruben Ramos and the Mexican Revolution will surely blow everyone away with their horn section, as will local boys, The Powerhouse – Avizo.

Most in attendance are, well, Chicanos. It would do politicos well to go press the flesh as each night will attract around 15,000 people.

DC Reviews ~ Los Hermanos Farias: Back on Track

Growing up, one of my first cassettes was of Los Hermanos Farias, a roots-style conjunto that had a lot of radio play in South Texas. All of a sudden, I started hearing about a “new” group called La Tropa F. It was just a more modern Hermanos Farias, but they hit it big during the 90s hey-day of Tejano music.

It was recently when I started seeing YouTubes of the two leads, David and Joe Farias, performing at various venues, and wondered if a big reunion was going to happen. Sure enough, we heard there was a reunion and a new CD in the works back in 2011. Back on Track is that project and after five years of not playing together, they have taken it back to their roots. David on the Acordeon, joe on the Bajo Sexto, another brother Juan with his distinctive “Tropa” drumming, and Oscar Garcia on the bass.

The new production opens with a Valerio Longoria classic, Los Albaniles, which lays the foundation for the rest of the music. One knows it will be a hard-core conjunto CD. The brothers waste no time in giving us a treat with Viejitas Pero Buenas Medley, which includes Cancion Mixteca, a classic which can never be overdone.

No strangers to cumbias, LHF follows it up with a corrido-turned-cumbia, Rosita Alvirez. El Sinaloense, a favorite huapango for mariachis, is turned into a rockin’ cumbia.

One gets a dose of “Tropa” stylings with El Muchacho Alegre and its familiar pasadita on the acordeon. And always experts on their boleros, David belts out Desde El Cielo, with Joe providing some nice harmonies. In fact, both share lead singing duties, which make them quite a versatile group. El Libre slows it down in this Bajo Sexto/Acordeon ballad, and Joe and David complementing each other.

Their musicianship really comes out in the instrumental El Viejito Special, which takes us through some classic polkitas. And you can’t go wrong with Joe’s intro. Piedras Del Campo is a Cuco Sanchez classic which is played to perfection as a polka ranchera.

Soledad, though, is an instant hit. With its intro effects and riffs on the bajo sexto and the sounds coming out of that acordeon, it will definitely be a crowd pleaser and dance floor favorite. David Farias belts out this tune solo.

With this production, the classic Farias sound returns. Of course, one might ask if David Farias will still be a Texmaniac, and all indications are that he is still committed to that project with Max Baca. But the Hermanos Farias have been  busy promoting this CD, which is a must-have for the collection.

Recorded on RoRecords, you can find it on many online outlets for your enjoyment. If you want good roots music played by some hard-core pros, then this is your CD.

TMA Results Officially Make Me An Old-Schooler

Well, the Tejano Music Awards have come and gone and it looks like the big winner was Elida Reyna of Valley-based group, Elida y Avante. Along with her four TMAs, there were a lot of “new” winners–some have been around a while, while others are names that have been floating around a little less.

Especially if you are an avid listener of Tejano internet radio (and those lucky ones in cities with Tejano radio stations), then you will know most, if not all, of the line-up of winners. But one thing is for sure, other than being an “Elida” fan, since she started her career, as well as The Hometown Boys, I think the results now make me an official old-schooler, since mega stars like Jay Perez (DC-Reviewed) didn’t end up with a TMA.

As easy as it would be, I won’t be a hater. I’ll just congratulate the winners, and maybe start opening my ears a little more. Bottom line, the prove that the Tejano-genre is not dying and that fans do indeed rule.

Here are the TMA winners:

32nd Annual Tejano Music Awards Winners:

Elsa Garcia
Mingo Saldivar
Johnny Canales

Song of the Year – Juntos Hasta Morir – Elida Reyna & Jesse Turner

Male Vocalist of the Year – Jesse Turner (Siggno)

Female Vocalist of the Year – Elida Reyna

Entertainer of the Year – Elida Reyna

Album of the Year – Tejano – Lo Que Me Dejaste – Siggno

Album of the Year – Conjunto – Manteniendo La Promesa – The Hometown Boys

Vocal Duo of the Year – Elida Reyna & Jesse Turner – Juntos Hasta Morir

Best New Male – Ricky Valenz

Best New Female – Jessica Sanchez

Best New Group – Tejano Highway 281

Winning Duo:

Best New Female:  Jessica Sanchez

Best New Male:  Ricky Valenz

Best New Group:  Tejano Highway 281

Tejano Music Awards Tonight in S.A.

Tonight, the Illusions Theatre at the Alamodome will be the place at which to be.  The 32nd Annual Tejano Music Awards returns to the ‘dome to recognize the achievements of musicians in the Tejano music-genre.

And the nominees are…click on the link to find out.

While musicians and bands will be honored for productions created over the last year, the tradition of looking to the past to reach toward the future continues. Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Tejano legends, Johnny Canales, Mingo Saldivar, and Houston’s own, Elsa Garcia.

Along with the awards, it will be a music-filled night. According to the Texas Talent Musicians Association:

The 32nd Annual Tejano Music Awards will begin with a star-studded Red Carpet reception that will play host to hundreds of fans, media and artists to include Grupo Siggno , Ruido Anejo, Ernie Salgado, Jesse Borrego, Elsa Garcia, Johnny Canales to name a few and performers. Some of Tejano music’s greatest bands and artists will be performing between the Awards presentations with many of them up for awards. Those scheduled to perform include:  Emilio Navaira, Ruben Ramos and the Texas Revolution, Jimmy Gonzalez y Grupo Mazz, Jay Perez, Stefani Montiel, David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Gary Hobbs, Hometown Boys, Los Hermanos Farias, Michael Salgado, Ricardo Castillon y La Diferenzia, Shelly Lares, Mario Flores, Sunny Sauceda, and Avizo with Chris Q, Jerry Lopez and Al Muniz.  The Awards show will also carry performances by new and upcoming artists such as Ricky Valenz and Juaquin Cura as well as Tracy Perez, Jessica Sanchez and other surprise performances guaranteed to delight event attendees.  This year, the Tejano Music Awards will include a special twist to the event with performances by the all girl rock band, Girl in a Coma and a performance by Erick y Grupo Massore.

The magic begins at the red carpet at 4:30, with the show beginning at 6pm.

DosCentavos will be following some of the Twitter and Facebook action regarding the TMAs, so all you musicos who are on the social media, please keep us posted!

DC Reviews: Los Texmaniacs ~ Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds

First of all, I want to see Los Texmaniacs do the intro and exit music for SA Mayor Julian Castro at the Democratic National Convention.

Secondly, Los Texmaniacs happen to be my favorite conjunto band. Led by the dexterous Bajo Sexto playing of Grammy Winner Max Baca and the acordeon of the legendary David Farias, they provide fans world-wide a variety of music. They can go from conjunto to country and back for some more. Drummer Lorenzo Martinez and Bassist Oscar Garcia provide the group some extra sabor with their intense playing. Martinez does double-duty playing the Guitarron on some of the tunes.

Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds was produced by the good people at Smithsonian Folkways, and serves as Los Texmaniacs’ second compilation of classic hits on that label. And this time around, they push the envelope by adding some really neat classics to this 18-track recording.

The tried and true Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio launches this production, followed by the Lydia Mendoza classic Amor Bonito. But the Maniacs waste no time getting to the special tunes, givinng us a bajo-acordeon instrumental of the Marty Robbins classic, El Paso, combined with San Antonio Rose with Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel providing the vocals.

Much like 2010’s Grammy winning Borders y Bailes, Los Texmaniacs give us timeless instrumentals, such as Santiago Jimenez, Sr.’s Viva Seguin, the Mexican classic Antotonilco, and the vals, Salvador. But another instrumental gift is that of a Texas medley, featuring The Eyes of Texas and Deep in the Heart of Texas. With Farias on the acordeon, Bobby Flores on the fiddle, and Baca’s riffs on the Bajo, these are the tunes I’d like to see at the DNC (hint-hint).

Other canciones-polkas that are timeless include El Buque de Mas Potencia, and Por Una Mujer Casada. Baca penned the newer polkita, Ana Mia, which even has a video. The Texmaniacs also expertly provide us some smooth boleros, including Si Quieres Verme Llorar, Los Barandales del Puente, and Mil Besos (vocals byLorenzo Martinez). But the tune that really hits this heart is the corrido, El Contrabando de El Paso. Baca is also joined on vocals by Jason Roberts of Asleep at the Wheel for an amazing rendition of Waltz Across Texas.

Many record companies have attempted to reignite the conjunto genre by selling the old stuff, and preserving our culture and music should be priority one. But Los Texmaniacs have taken it a step further by giving us these tunes in a soulful manner without the tunes losing their integrity. What makes this production a special one is being secure in the knowledge that Baca and the gang can reproduce this stuff live and to perfection. Check out a show one of these days!

Texas Towns and Tex-Mex Sounds is readily available on the Smithsonian Folksways site for purchase and download. You never get this great a deal for 18 tracks.

Here’s a little something from their recent live CD:

DC Reviews: Ram Herrera ~ En El Amor

Tejano crooner Ram Herrera returns with a new production, En El Amor. A product of AMMX Records, owned by Gary Hobbs, En El Amor highlights Herrera’s unique voice while changing up the musical sound a bit. Still, it is an excellent 10-song production by “The Outlaw.”

Herrera’s career spans decades, having fronted David Lee Garza y Los Musicales before going on to a highly successful solo career. The singer of “Rosas Para Una Rosa” and “Amor Querido,” still has the chops and it comes out in this newest production.

A mix of rancheras, cumbias, and ballads, the production starts off strong with Como Olvidarme de Ti, and ode to the end of a relationship. And from then on, it just gets better. Te Entrego Lo Mejor is another ranchera that will keep you toe-tapping. Que Sepan Todos, with its sax solo, reminds one of Herrera’s early days with Montana Band; while Fallaste Corazon will show Ram-fans that he is has stayed true to his style. Herrera adds an acordeon-heavy tune with El Mas Feliz, which is a great dance floor tune.

Herrera’s voice is great for ballads, and he doesn’t miss with A Donde Vas. The other ballad on the production, though, is the closer, Didn’t Anybody Tell Him, which is somber one about the worst that can happen during drunk-driving.

Herrera and his band are known for some smooth cumbias, and the first one out of the gate is the title track, with some great lyrics. Si Tuviera Tu Amor and Si Te Quedas o Te Vas keep the beat going.

All-in-all, it’s a strong production; although the slight change in sound forced me to give it a few runs on the MP3 player before I fully appreciated it. Perhaps I prefer some harder drumming, but ultimately, Herrera delivers what his fans want–his powerful voice.

Get your copy today!

15 y.o. Anzaldua Wins Big Squeeze Competition

So, I missed the Big Squeeze competition and the Accordion Kings and Queens this past weekend due to my preference of hanging out with the nephew from L.A., but it’s always good to see news about the local event–even if it isn’t in the local paper.

15 year-old Peter Anzaldua of Brownsville beat out three other finalists to win the competition. So, as I always like to tell the old white dudes from the HoustonRodeo, “Tejano music isn’t dying, cabrones!” Here’s a clip of the story:

In addition to taking home the top prize of $1,000 and a Hohner Classic II accordion, after winning the contest Anzaldua got to play a set on the Miller Outdoor Auditorium stage with headliners Flaco Jimenez, Mingo Saldivar and the Texmaniacs.

“That was amazing,” his mother Christi Anzaldua said of seeing her son perform with the Texmaniacs, one of the top Tex-Mex conjunto groups in the country.

Anzaldua, who attends Veterans Memorial High School, said the fact that people were dancing during the contest made it easier to perform well. He beat out three other finalists, Luis Gonzalez of Grand Prairie, Michael Salinas of Dallas and Omar Garza of Mission.

“I was excited,” he said. “It’s better when there’s dancing. People get into the music and it just comes together more.”

There’s a great 10-minute clip of the set on Tejano Progressions’ Facebook page. Check it out.

(Thanks to Armando Salinas for pointing me to the story.)

DC Reviews: Guzman-Fox – Mas Conjuntazzo

Joel Guzman and Sarah Fox are an innovative team with the ability to fuse various genres into their performances. Their productions at times have the same kind of fusion, but Mas Conjuntazzo is a collection of traditional standards brought to life like only a few can do. Whether you want to toe-tap or zapatear with your partner, this is a set of recordings that you will keep on permanent rotation.

Joel Guzman’s acordeon is flawless throughout, but I must say that I’m partial to the polkas rancheras. Leading off with one of my favorite tunes, Al Cortar Una Gardenia, one cannot help but keep singing the line, “que torres tan elevadas como no las tumba el aire, que bonita chaparrita para nuera de mi madre.” It’s a line that gets me in trouble all the time in downtown Houston.

Ingratos Ojos Mios seems to be my favorite of the ten tracks, though. Guzman and Fox’s vocals are spot on, but the slightly up-tempo break with Guzman’s acordeon gives this tune an extra flavor to enjoy. Of course, the timeless Paloma Querida in ranchera-style also hits the heart and is a great way to close this production.

The polka La Chismosa, and a treat put together by Guzman, Melodias Favoritas, will definitely appease the acordeon-lover in all of us. Chismosa with its standard style to keep us dancing; and Melodias with various change-ups–from a polka to chotis to huapango and back to standard polka; the most obvious sound you hear is Guzman’s dexterous acordeon technique, with the bajo sexto giving it that extra punch.

Cancion Mixteca is an old standard that must be performed perfectly, and Guzman-Fox do not disappoint. The high notes, the harmonies, the acordeon, the bajo sexto from Juan Barco…it’s just powerful.

Guzman and Fox complement each other, vocally, throughout. Fox takes on lead vocals on La Avispita, a fun little cumbia with some excellent dance floor rhythms; while Guzman provides us another rhythmic cumbia with La Reyna. Both come together to gives us a couple of awesome rancheras, Llorar Llorar and El Recadito.

Whether it’s on a recording or live, Guzman and Fox give you their best. I don’t mean to overanalyze, but it seems like Guzman puts a lot of thought into each note to ensure a distinct sound is produced, rather than just your rehashed standard. Complemented by some amazing drumming from Chente Barrera and some excellent bass from Mario Hernandez, this production is the complete package. I guess that’s why I appreciate this kind of stuff.

Mas Conjuntazzo is a must-buy for the collection, and you can download or order it here.  Support indie music and indie music stores because that’s what keeps our musica y cultura thriving!