Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hurricane Beulah

Never knew this song existed until today. Lightin' Hopkins doing a song about the infamous and disastrous Hurricane Beulah. I know Gilbert Perez also did a song but I haven't been able to locate it yet. Here is former Port Isabel mayor Leo Sanders discussing Hurricane Beulah.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No quiero ser mentiroso

I recently went to a boxing event with my friend Leo, who co-manages The Gotch Special with me. As I entered El Gallito Ballroom in Edinburg, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, I immediately regretted not bringing a sweater. Sitting on a hard, steel folding chair for 4 hours in a ridiculously cold venue was going to be tough.

My friend Leo went on to work the time keeping for the event, so I was sitting there in the front row alone. Then a 70 year old man sat next to me. As soon as he sits down, he hands me over a Dr. Pepper, then starts showing me photos and videos of his deer hunting adventures and of gator gar he's caught. This was a man of greatness, his hands were as rugged as any mans I've seen. I must point out, that everything he said was in Spanish, I'm just changing it over to English for this blog. One of the ushers came towards me and said I couldn't have that soda can, because I might throw it at one of the boxers and seriously injure him. So the usher handed me over a plastic cup to use instead. This old, 70-year old man talked back saying these boxers are pretty much killing themselves with never ending punches, some damn aluminum can wouldn't do shit to a guy who's had his face smashed by fists.  

Then when a ring girl passes by, the man tells me she smells like a "carnival" (he says this as a compliment!?!?). When he sees Charlie Clark is there, he mentions that he heard Clark had his finger cut off by the Zetas (I've heard this rumor before), but then the old guy says that Clark must have gotten a surgery to get his finger back. At one point, in between fights, he starts playing an air guitar. Why? I have no idea.

He also had some awesome ostrich boots, I complimented them and he convinced me he killed the ostrich himself. Then afterwards, he laughs at me since I believed him, says "no quiero ser mentiroso" ("I don't want to be a liar") and admitted he bought them.

What an enjoyable evening in Edinburg. 

Classic Sounds Essential For Any Conjunto Collection

This album was first released by Ramiro Cavazos' Discos RyN in McAllen. At the time it was titled "Las Coronelas" (the name of a polka on the album). Later on, the rights to the album were bought by Chris Strachwitz and re-released on vinyl as "El Corrido De Jhonny El Pachuco" on the Arhoolie label in 1987. Eventually this exact same album, plus an additional ten tracks were released on a Arhoolie CD titled "The Many Sounds of Steve Jordan". These extra tracks were recorded in the early 1960's and are more traditional sounding than what Jordan would be known for later. Many of the songs were rancheras with Jordan and his then wife, Virginia Martinez. Those extra tracks also include a pair of neat polkas. Good early work from Jordan, and at times we hear some early glimpses of what was to come later.

The CD comes with the 1960's version of "Las Coronelas" and it's fun to contrast that with 1980's version of that same title. Both are great versions, but the first one is closer to a pure conjunto arrangement. On the other hand, the second version is so experimental and radically different from the usual conjunto polkas you will hear. Jordan throws some lyrics on this newer version and some extra licks to add more flavor to it. Adding the sizzle to the steak.

The track "El Corrido de Jhonny El Pachuco" is an awesome remake of Victor Cordero's "Juan Charrasqueado". The original Mexican lyrics are transformed into Jordan's language and surroundings. It's a more raw and grittier world for Jordan. For example, some phrases he adds to his version include "al alba" (alert, but it's used in the context of the song being "a cautionary tale"), "slicka" (meaning slick), "chismear" (gossip), cholas, "muy alto" (very high;stoned), etc. The classic Mexican tune is now arranged with Jordan's squeezebox as the lead instrument. The "Jhonny" in the title is a promiscuous, drug-trafficking pachuco and the song informs us in colorful terms that he would pick up women in McAllen. At the end of the story, Jhonny meets his demise and the song concludes that he was sent to the cemetery because of the company ("las pachucas mas greñudas") he kept.  

We have a few instrumentals on here like "El Rancho Grande Potpourri" (an arrangement of several pieces) and the spirited polka "La Pepita". But the song that hit me the most on the entire album was "Midnight Blues". This jazzy, otherworldly piece could only be crafted by an unorthodox musician like Jordan. His educated fingers and his desire to create unique sound effects produce an addicting piece that is Jordan at his most original. After hearing "Midnight Blues", it makes me imagine that Jordan could have probably created a great score for a sci-fi film.

The other tunes in the album are "Estrellita Del Norte" (ranchera), "Jamas Volvere" (ranchera), "Vuela La Paloma" (cumbia), and country standards "Together Again" and "More Pretty Girls Than One". The latter two are examples of Jordan showing how versatile he can be. The idiosyncratic elements of Jordan's style are on display for each of these songs. 

This album is an essential album for any conjunto collection and the best way to introduce a new fan to Jordan. After hearing this album new fans will realize why this eye patch-wearing, Elsa native is so revered by accordion aficionados around the world.