Pros:A good sampler of Tex-Mex country featuring one of the greatest Accordionist around.
Cons:Inconsistent sound, lousy liner notes, not enough of Flaco.
The Bottom Line: If you're looking for some country with a Tex-Mex accent, this could be the place to start.
Like many Anglos living outside the Southwest, my knowledge of Mexican music is limited. One artist that has crossed my path a few times is the renowned accordionist Flaco Jimenez. Flaco (meaning tall and thin in Spanish) gained notoriety through his work with Ry Cooder and membership in The Texas Tornadoes with fellow Tex-Mex stars Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, and Augie Meyers. He appears as a guest artist on many a better-known artist's records, including Dwight Yoakum, The Mavericks, and many others.
Flacos own records seem to fall into two camps: guest-studded Country and Tex-Mex affairs mostly sung in English by the guest artists, and albums of traditional Mexican waltzes and dance numbers. This record falls in the former category, although it gets increasingly Tejano flavored (and more satisfying) as it goes. Sadly some of the tracks with guest stars make Flaco sound like a sideman on his own record. But without a strong vocal ability of his own, what's an accomplished accordionist to do?
Wading through the liner notes provided proves somewhat difficult and confusing. (I could go on a whole rant here about why records aimed at a more (ahem) "mature" demographic come with booklets full of 2-pt. type that can't be seen even WITH the bifocals, not to mention the proper use of fonts and contrast on the printed page, but I'll save that for another day!) The record was made in two recording sessions, using two different sets of producers and backing bands, and several guest vocalists. Some of these are identified as singing a particular song, and some are not, leaving us to guess who exactly is doing the singing on which track.
The San Antonio sessions were helmed by brothers Michael and Ron Morales and include vocalist Nunie Rubio and guitarist Joe Reyes. Just when Rubio is taking the lead is not clear. Given that Michael Morales has released records under his own name, perhaps one of the voices we hear is his both he and brother Ron are credited with background vocals, and almost every track has very nice two or three-part harmonies. (From my recollection of Flacos vocals on the few other records Ive heard, it would seem he is seldom if ever taking the lead here.)
The Burbank or should I say Bakersfield? sessions were helmed by longtime Dwight Yoakum collaborator Pete Anderson, with a band that included Anderson on guitar, Jim Christie on drums, Skip Edwards on keys, and Taras Prodaniuk on bass. Again there are un-credited vocals, and some might be Anderson himself.
The record starts heavy on the guest stars and country sound and only later dips below the border, with only the last two tunes sung in Spanish. This gives the album a bit of a schizophrenic grab-bag feel. Most of the time, it works. The songs are
A Little Drink, A Little Dance The San Antone crew, with Lee Roy Parnell doing the vocal chores and playing slide guitar. A fairly standard honky-tonker penned by Ron Morales that is enlivened by accordion flourishes and solo from Flaco. This sounds like it belongs on another record entirely, and perhaps was originally recorded for Lee Roy's benefit?
Alright, Im Wrong The Burbank band, with Dwight Yoakum taking the lead on a tune co-written by buddy and producer Anderson. Reminiscent of some of the Texas Tornadoes work with a Doug Sahm organ left-hand.
Love Me Do Yes, the Beatles tune. Flacos accordion takes the harmonica lines. With Buck Owens as one of the vocalists, you would think this would be the Burbank gang, but its the Texans. The tune works pretty well with a Texas two-step twist to the backbeat. Who is Buck dueting with? We dont know.
I Found Out This is the closest thing to Norteno so far, but its beat is choppy and awkward. The female lead vocals may or may not be Becka Bramlett, who is credited with background vocals. The production of this track is very flat and dry compared to the others and the arrangement is sparse. Flaco gets some nice flourishes in here and there but they sound dubbed in. Maybe this would have been better handled by the Texans, but its the Burbank crew. One of the weaker tracks.
This Could Be The One A Michael Morales composition. A strummed mid-tempo number that features a nice duet between
who and who? Wouldnt be too out of place on a Mavericks record.
No More Runnin Around Another mystery vocal. A subtly Tex-Mex story song of love-lost regret.
Sleepytown Written by Pete Anderson and Paul Kinny, this lament has Roy Orbison overtones, and little accordian, being dominated by a mix of organ sounds and piano. Achingly heartfelt vocals, but by whom?
Youve Got Me Wondering Another Pete Anderson co-write, and is that Pete on vocals? This has an almost Merseybeat double backbeat and bridge, albeit with a country-fried twang.
Désirée Since he wrote it, perhaps this is Raul Nunie Rubio singing. (Were back in San Antone again.) A double-eight slow ballad that lets Flaco run counterpoint around and behind the singers. Ah, I can start to taste the cilantro now.
Amor A Ron Morales ballad, sung in Spanish over lightly strummed nylon-string guitars. Flaco is all but absent from this number at first, adding some background commentary as the tune progresses.
Baila Le Gente A lively number penned by Michael Morales, also en Espanol closes out the record. Flaco finally gets to show his stuff.
All in all this is not a bad record. It grew on me the more I listened to it. I wish it were more consistent and had more of Flaco and less of the guests. The combination of Flaco and the Morales brothers is a good one, and I hope they will get together again to make a whole record someday.
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