By Geoffrey Himes
Friday, January 11, 2013
It has always been puzzling that conjunto music has never achieved the same following among East Coast hipsters that zydeco has. After all, both are infectious, accordion-driven dance music played by cowboy-hat-wearing, blue-collar bands from Gulf Coast states. The latest attempt to correct this inconsistency is Los Texmaniacs’ terrific new conjunto album, “Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds.”
The quartet was founded in 1997 by Max Baca, who played the bajo sexto for the Texas Tornados for years. The bajo sexto -- an oversized, 12-string guitar with a booming baritone sound -- is as important to the conjunto sound as is the triple-row button accordion, and Baca has found a way to slip single-note runs in with the usual chords. His co-leader, David Farias, takes similar melodic tangents on the squeezebox.
For all its innovations, Los Texmaniacs is steeped in tradition. The album includes modern updates of Tex-Mex standards associated with Lydia Mendoza, Lisa Lopez, Tony de la Rosa and Narciso Martinez. There are three numbers written by the legendary Santiago Jimenez Sr., including “Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio,” made famous by Los Lobos and given a new dancehall propulsion here.
Another Texas tradition, Anglo country music, is represented in such songs as “San Antonio Rose” and “Waltz Across Texas” with help from members of Asleep at the Wheel.