Tejano music so good that not even death could stop it, the Texas Tornados’ Esta Bueno is the first, unlikeliest, and best reunion album of 2010. The first time I heard these songs, it was so early in the morning that I hadn’t even had breakfast yet, but the always-welcome combination of Augie Meyers’ organ and the peerless conjunto accordion of Flaco Jiménez had me craving barbecued ribs before the third track was finished.
The Tornados haven’t released an album since 1999, but the long layoff wasn’t about laziness; Doug Sahm, the original Texas Tornado, died that year, followed in 2005 by guitarist and singer Freddy Fender. Lesser bands have been felled by less dire circumstances, but through perseverence, talent, and a little luck, the Tornadoes are still standing — and they’re joined here by Doug Sahm’s son Shawn, as well as five previously unheard Fender performances and a parting shot from the elder Sahm.
The knowledge that Esta Bueno includes leftover tracks might trigger warnings of tepid, cobbled-together Frankenstein albums from similarly afflicted bands, but you don’t need to worry — as Jiménez has promised in interviews, “the groove is back.” The band sounds looser and more inspired than it has since its first couple of records, and the new songs fit seamlessly alongside anything taken from the vaults. There are no surprises here, and that’s a good thing: You don’t listen to the Texas Tornados looking for wild experiments, you turn to them for fun, uptempo party music and brassy, sock hop-style slow dance numbers with a bilingual flair, with generous helpings of wily humor, organ, and accordion along the way. Esta Bueno delivers on all fronts.
The only bad thing you can really say about the album is that we won’t get another one like it from the band; whatever the future holds for the Texas Tornados — and it does seem like they plan to continue — this is the end of an era. But if we have to say goodbye to Sahm and Fender, this album is an excellent way to do it; turn up Esta Bueno until it’s so loud that you can’t help feeling alive, and hope it doesn’t take another decade before we hear more new music from the band.
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