Los Fabulocos – Dos

January 01, 1970

(Delta
Groove Music)

 

www.deltagrooveproductions.com

 

The late
Doug Sahm popularized the “Tex-Mex” sound back in the late 1960s with
his ground-breaking band the Sir Douglas Quintet and, later, across a handful
of acclaimed solo albums that influenced everybody from Los Lobos and the Latin
Playboys to Joe Ely and the Mavericks. The Texas Tornados, Sahm’s 1990s-era
band with former Sir Douglas bandmate Augie Meyers on keyboards, accordionist
Flaco Jimenez, and country star Freddy Fender, took Sahm’s inspired blend of
roots-rock, Bakersfield-styled country twang, Texas blues, Cajun spice, and
Mexican Tejano influences to the higher regions of the country charts.

 

Los
Fabulocos doesn’t so much as carry on in Sahm’s Tex-Mex tradition as create one
of their own that they term “Cali-Mex,” reflecting the band members’
California-bred roots. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of difference, though,
between Sahm’s original musical vision and that of Los Fabulocos, and every
song the band touches displays the same sort of reckless, joyful spirit as any
of Sahm’s work. Formed in 2004 by singer and accordionist Jesus Cuevas and
drummer Mike Molina – both alumni of the East L.A. roots-rock band the Blazers
– they added bassist James Barrios, a Bakersfield
country scene veteran, the following year. With the addition of fiery blues
guitarist David “Kid” Ramos, a member of blues-rock legends the
Fabulous Thunderbirds, Los Fabulocos found the sound they were searching for, and
the band released their acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2008.

 

Flash
forward a couple of years and Los Fabulocos has chalked up some impressive
mileage on the road, performing as far afield as Norway as well as across the
U.S., including the band’s Southern Texas and California strongholds. The
touring has done the foursome well, honing their sound and putting a shine on
the band’s immense chemistry as revealed by their appropriately-named sophomore
album, Dos. With a greater reliance
on Cuevas’ well-written originals, mixed in with revved-up versions of
traditional Mexican songs, Dos provides a blast of fresh, clean style and sound for ears weary of the same old
sonic bludgeoning that is modern rock music.

 

While
Cuevas’s throaty vocals remind of those of David Hildago of Los Lobos, they
remain just the smallish bit less forceful, resting comfortably in the middle
of the mix, letting the music wash over them. The rhythm section of bassist
Barrios and drummer Molina kick out the jams with the best of them, driving
each song with power and precision, while Cuevas’ tasty accordion flourishes
and Ramos’ nimble fretwork fill in the corners. Dos kicks off with what is probably the closest that Los Fabulocos
comes to sounding like Los Lobos, the soulful “Everything Will Turn Out
Alright” a radio-ready mid-tempo rocker with crying guitar, bittersweet
accordion riffs, and what is probably Cuevas’ most nuanced vocal turn. In the
perfect rock ‘n’ roll world I imagine in my dreams, this song would dominate
the blues, roots, and indie rock worlds with its heartfelt sound and simple
charm.

 

Los
Fabulocos only crank up the amps from here, “The Vibe” a jaunty
Cali-Mex flavored rocker with rapid-paced vocals, splinters of
rockabilly-tinged guitar, a machinegun rhythm with explosive drumbeats and, of
course, lively accordion play with the notes flooding your senses. “Los
Chucos Suaves” (translates as “yellow roses,” best that I can
tell) is one of several Spanish-language songs on Dos, and perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch. With a clunky,
syncopated beat and a throbbing bass line intro, the accordion kicks in
alongside Cuevas’s vocals, creating a mesmerizing albeit dark vibe. Ramos’
six-string additions run from echoed surf-guitar riffs to furious blasts of
notes roaring above the song’s choogling rhythm.  

 

“She
Wakes Up Crying” is another up-tempo, Los Lobos-styled performance with a
great lyrical storyline of love and determination with a spiritual touch,
Cuevas’s accordion riffs complimenting his warm vocals, which embrace the
song’s characters with no little empathy as Ramos’s guitar rattles and buzzes
in the background. “What’s In My Heart” is an enchanting love song
with an almost polka-like beat, constant roller-coaster accordion, and an energetic
drumbeat behind the emotional vocals while a cover of Little Richard’s
“Keep A Knockin'” is provided a sly blend of zydeco rhythms, wiry
rockabilly/surf guitar, and a little New Orleans flavor beneath the song’s
brilliant English/Spanish vocal blend.

 

Multi-lingual
roots-rock with a heavy Hispanic influence may not be every music lover’s cup
o’ tea, but for those listeners with an open heart and ears, Los Fabulocos will
scratch that itch you’ve had since the Texas Tornados broke up, or maybe even back
to the Sir Douglas Quintet days. Give it a chance and you’ll find that Dos will happily fill your ears with its
rich mix of musical styles and the band’s talented, inspired performances.   

 

DOWNLOAD: “Everything Will Turn Out Alright,”
“Los Chucos Suaves,” “What’s In My Heart,” “Keep A
Knockin'” REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

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