4 Aces

Texas Tornados

Reprise, 1996


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on February 4, 1997]

It feels like a waking dream: my footsteps crunching over gravel and dry dirt as I slip in the side door of some forgotten cantina in some forgotten border town, slit-eyed characters hanging back in the shadowy corners as I step to the bar. The bottle of Corona is so cold my lower lip begins to throb after my first pull on it; then the desperate tartness of the lime distracts from the pain. And then, all at once, the music begins on the other side of the room on a tiny stage, where four grizzled, grandfatherly bandito types have launched into a round of barroom weepers filled with Spanglish lyrics and conjunto accordion melodies. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Then I realize that (a) the light I've been waiting at has turned green, (b) the guy behind me in the maroon Honda is waving his arms (and a finger or two) at me, and (c) I've got the Texas Tornados' latest CD—4 Aces—on way too loud. (Even this job has its dangers.)

Not only are these guys truly the epitome of border-straddling barroom Tex-Mex; they have nailed the "live" sound, which is not surprising given the 80 or more years of touring under the belts of the four key players (Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers). Every song sounds as if you're listening from a front-row seat in some darkly charming little dive where all the waitresses are named Maria.

Texas boys Sahm and Meyers have been playing together for over a quarter century (they were the backbone of the ’60s/’70s Tex-Mex outfit the Sir Douglas Quintet), while Fender (born Baldemar Huerta) and noted accordion player Jimenez (who anchored the Mavericks' 1995 hit "All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down") offer their own genuine south-of-the-border musical influence.

Standout tunes include the jaunty sagebrush philosophizing of Sahm's "A Little Bit is Better Than Nada," the affecting romantic style of Fender's "In My Mind" and "The One I Love the Most" and the whole band's romp through their own manufactured tongue-in-cheek legend on the title track. So get ready to call out "Flaco!" at every song's break and let your mind wander down along the border for a while (just not in heavy traffic).

Rating: B+

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