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Music Review: Texas Tornados – Esta Bueno!

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Written by Fantasma el Rey

The Texas Tornados have touched down for the first time in over a decade and the result is Esta Bueno! Surviving members Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers have teamed with the son of Doug Sahm, Shawn, and have managed to keep the Texas Tornados' Tex-Mex flame burning bright. The new album boasts five previously unreleased Freddy Fender songs and the last vocal recording by Doug Sahm, which keeps the album popping with the original Tornados' flair.

The original line-up of Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender (both sadly gone from this world), Flaco Jimenez, and Augie Meyers come about in early 1990. The band's brand of Tex-Mex music was catchy, quirky and all-out fun. Sahm and Meyers had been playing together since their days in Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet, a Chicano-flavored counter to the British invasion. Fender was long known for his Mexican/American rock ‘n’ roll and country hits while Jimenez had been turning out conjunto hits on his accordion for decades.

The “old guys in the street” earned a Grammy in 1990 for best Mexican/American performance and continued until the passing of founder Doug in 1999. In 2006 Freddy Fender also passed but all the while Shawn was preparing to put something together by the remaining members. So fours years and many hours of fine-tuning later, we have the finished, fantastic result that is Esta Bueno!

The album opens with “Who’s To Blame, Senorita” a tune by Shawn and Doug that carries the vibe of the Tornados' early hit “Who Were You Thinking Of,” with more polished-sounding harmony vocals and lead by Shawn. Listen closely to the end of the song and you can hear a nod to the Sir Douglas Quintet in the organ. The song selection by Shawn is perfect as the album eventually closes with the last recording by his dad, “Girl Going Nowhere.” It's a beautiful ballad filled with strings as well as the classic vox organ and Doug’s plaintive, Chicano-flavored vocals.

Freddy Fender's five songs are classic Fender, Chicano rock ‘n’ roll with Texas roots. His “If I Only Could” sounds like a classic 1950s grinder and clocks in at just over three minutes. Horns and piano à la the Fats Domino band abound as Flaco cuts through with his accordion to remind you that it’s a Tex-Mex tune, and you should grab your girl and dance! Fender shows his rockin’ fun side with the instant classic “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like I Like,” which highlights the Tornados' comic side. This track is Fender’s look at the modern girl from a 1950s kid’s viewpoint. The song is total fun and stays clear of being offensive; never losing the fact that it’s a joke and the band is having a blast.

“Ahora Yo Voy” is an all-Spanish tune that has Fender and the boys in rockin’ tribute to the Sir Douglas Quintet. In a way, the tune is a true tribute to the missing founding members and a great choice to include on the disc. “Another Shot Of Ambition” is a song Fender has cut on a previous album but Shawn had the “old guys” spin it Tornados' style and gave it new life. The sensual salsa track “Llevame,” written by guitarist Louie Ortega is Fender’s final performance on the album and he nails it with his passionate vocals.

Augie Meyers lends a hand with his fine writing turning in the hard rocking tunes “My Sugar Blue,” “Velma From Selma,” and the title track “Esta Bueno.” Augie’s lighthearted comic gift shines through on the latter two. The kicker on “Velma” is how Augie can sing about getting his ass kicked by his girlfriend’s father in perfect harmony and timing. Like a true Mexican corrido, he can sing of tragedy and violence and make it seem a fun, rockin’ good time. “Esta Bueno” is three and a half minutes of laugher at the pain of Augie’s eating too many powerful jalapenos that come back to get him in the “end.”

Flaco Jimenez not only provides the kick-ass accordion throughout Esta Bueno! but also turns in some fine vocals to boot. Taking leads on Doug’s “Chicano” which the two had originally recorded back in 1973. Flaco’s broken English is perfect as he sings the verses in both English and Spanish. Flaco’s second turn at the mic is the wonderful duet with Augie, “In Heaven There Is No Beer,” which finds Flaco tearing the house down with that accordion of his.

For forty solid minutes, Esta Bueno! brims with all the life and love that the Texas Tornados bring to anything they play. The vocals from our missing friends, the humor from a prolific pen, and the energy from the accordion make this a perfect fit into the Texas Tornados' catalog. Each original member’s style shines bright throughout the CD. Shawn Sahm has done a wonderful job taking the production reigns and has turned out an album that would have made his dad and Freddy Fender proud. Fans of the Texas Tornados won’t be let down at all by this one.

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