That's exactly what the Texas Tornados have done with "Esta Bueno!", released Tuesday on Bismeaux Records. Founding members Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender may be gone, but fellow vets of the Tex-Mex super group Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiménez are back in the fold. Spearheading the project is Doug Sahm's son Shawn, who serves as producer, vocalist, guitarist and drummer.
What the three men have produced, with help from their fallen brethren, is another quality record, one that stands up to the standards they set as Grammy winners back in the 1990s.
The collection features four songs penned by Fender and five vocal recordings from shortly before his death. Of these, "If I Could Only" is the immediate standout. Between Fender's heartfelt delivery, Jiménez' one-of-a-kind accordion and Shawn Sahm's production, including a full horn section, the track is a tribute not only to the Tornados, but to Fender's best work as a solo artist.
While there's also some nice work from Shawn on some of his dad's songs, another gem comes on the final track, "Girl Going Nowhere," a demo from the late 1990s with Doug singing lead vocals.
The album isn't just about the work from the late members of the band, though. Meyers puts his wit on display with tracks like "Velma from Selma" and the title track. Jiménez also has a bit of fun with the Spanish-English reimagining of the German polka tune "In Heaven There Is No Beer."
And that's what this collection is really all about: fun. Even for listeners not well versed in Tejano music, it's hard to miss the energy and passion the Tornados, both living and dead, pour into their music.
For all involved, it really seems to be a labor of love.
My spin: B-
"Esta Bueno!" is a another good set from a good band. The principle players may be long past middle age, but they continue to bring exuberance to their music.
Standouts include "If I Could Only," "Girl Going Nowhere," "Velma From Selma," "Who's to Blame, Señorita?" and "Tennessee Blues." For fans of bands unafraid to mix genres and traditions, it's worth a listen.
This one also earns extra points for good liner notes. While there are no lyrics, there is an extended explanation of each song, written by Shawn, Flaco or Augie. For music geeks like this writer, such insight into the artists' minds is a treat.
Released: March 2 on Bismeaux Records
The Texas Tornados are: Freddy Fender-vocals; Doug Sahm-vocals, guitar; Flaco Jiménez-vocals, accordion; Augie Meyers-vocals, vox organ, piano; Shawn Sahm-vocals, guitars, drums
Additional players: Louie Ortega-guitar, background vocals; Speedy Sparks-bass; Ernie Durawa-drums; George Rains-drums; Michael Guerra-bajo sexto; Nunni Rubio-background vocals; Neal Walker-background vocals, bass; Westside Horns (Al Gomez, Spot Barnett, Louis Bustos)
Producer: Shawn Sahm
More information: www.thetexastornados.com