Friday, June 28, 2013

Live ‘Accordion Kings & Queens’ compilation album funded by fans

In the first week of May, Texas Folklife launched a Kickstarter project to help cover the funding of the production and release of a live album. The album would be a recording of the previous years "Accordion Kings & Queens" festival. The goal on Kickstarter was to raise $2,950; they raised $3,271. The album was released on June 1, much to the delight of accordion aficionados.

This album opens with the four "Big Squeeze" finalists — Michael Ramos; Luis Gonzalez; Omar Garza; Peter Anzaldua. The four instrumental tracks include "Mas Tequila", "Avance Polka", "El Huracán" and "Carmela Medley". All four performances are vibrant and impressive, it's easy to see why these young musicians were the finalists. I saw Anzaldua — the 2012 champion — perform live in San Benito late last year. Within a few minutes, he had the entire dance floor filled up with people of all ages. This accordion wiz kid from Brownsville is someone to look out for.

In the following track we are joined by 2011 champion, Nachito Morales and Los Morales Boyz. It's a moving rendition of "Danzón Juarez", one of the finest pieces in all of conjunto music.

We now move on to Czech and Zydeco music. First up, we have two pieces by the Ennis Czech Boys. While similar in some respects, they are a neat contrast to the earlier conjunto instrumentals. Warm, graceful pieces that I think conjunto fans would appreciate and embrace. "Baby Come On" and "Watch That Mule" by Dora & Her Zydeco Entourage are infectious. This catchy music comes alive with its charming vocals and enthusiasm.

Los Texmaniacs, an incredible ensemble of conjunto musicians, are also featured on this release. They have become one of the best representatives of conjunto music, traveling all across the globe to spread awareness of this unique regional genre. Their first track on here is "Lucerito", a spirited ranchera about a man who anxiously waits for the love of his life. They are then joined by conjunto icon Mingo Saldivar, to perform a hit of his — "Pájaro Negro". Saldivar brings a country-western aesthetic to his conjunto music, producing a style of music that is original and exciting to listen to.

The legendary Flaco Jimenez also joins Los Texmaniacs for a pair of tunes; "Together Again" and "Volver, Volver". The former is a country standard that has become popular with some conjunto artists. Jimenez incorporates his signature adornos (riffs) to the popular country tune. The latter is one of the most popular Spanish songs around, an intense and powerful ranchera that was composed by Vicente Fernandez.

In-between "Together Again" and "Volver, Volver", an 11-minute track titled "Accordion Jam" proves to be electrifying. Saldivar, Jimenez, David Farias and Anzaldua hop on the stage and have an accordion shootout. This raw and dazzling track gives you an idea of what to expect at a live event. At its core, it's a genuine, heartfelt celebration of accordion music.

This album provides an expansive view to the different styles and musicians found in accordion-based music. Highly recommended to anyone out there that is curious about regional music and what it has to offer.

You can purchase a copy at

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