Even as streaming has collapsed the space between areas — making it simple for listeners in Boise to listen to what’s well-liked in Boston or Barcelona or Bogotá — Texas stays stubbornly idiosyncratic. “For a very long time Texas artists had been confined to Texas,” defined George Cook, director of operations and program director for the Dallas hip-hop and R&B stations KKDA and KRNB. “What’s loopy about Texas is it’s so large, you may create a profession right here and do fairly effectively for your self.”
Cook was talking about rappers within the state, however an identical precept applies in nation music — in contrast to another state, Texas has its personal regional radio charts within the style — and Tejano music, a format that melds Mexican types like Norteño with rock, nation, blues and extra. Within Texas, and perhaps bordering states, this music is large; 1,000 miles away, although, it’s typically given quick shrift.
A brand new album goals to discover a special however under-examined nook of Texas’ musical historical past. A group of contemporary songs with a classic twist, Look at My Soul: The Latin Shade of Texas Soul demonstrates the wealthy historical past of interaction between Latin artists in Texas and basic strains of rhythm and blues. Featuring a multi-generational forged of native soul singers, it’s the brainchild of writer-producer-multi-instrumentalist Adrian Quesada — a former member of the bands Grupo Fantasma and The Echocentrics, plus a contributor to information by Los Ángeles Azules and Deer Tick — who has been hoping to make an album like this for almost 15 years.
The preliminary jolt of curiosity got here from a dialog with Ruben Ramos, a veteran who has gained a Grammy for his work in Tejano music. Though Tejano artists are walled-off into their very own state, Ramos advised Quesada he grew up with a gentle food plan of R&B. “Early on, lots of these singers had been doing what they referred to as brown-eyed soul or chicano soul,” the producer says. “Even after they had been beginning to develop the sound generally known as Tejano music, they had been nonetheless tempering it with a soul tune right here and there, a funk tune right here and there.”
This album appears pure within the context of the outstanding enhance in soul music scholarship that has taken place over the past 15 years. In pop music, historical past is basically advised by hit-makers with entry to nationwide distribution networks. But many small labels thrived making nice R&B cuts that had been solely heard regionally. Recently, varied establishments have emerged devoted to elevating regional music that will have been ignored. “A whole lot of the stuff the Numero Group has performed has actually helped inform these tales,” Quesada says. Since beginning in 2004, Numero has launched albums specializing in, for instance, the Deep City label in Florida, the Big Mack label in Detroit, and the Tragar and Note labels in Atlanta.
As the highlight widened to embody extra narratives in R&B, it started to achieve among the Latino musicians who dove into soul music and sparked regionally. Quesada factors to the reissue of music by Sunny and the Sunliners, a San Antonio-based group that loved hits within the first half of the Sixties. Chicano Soul: Recordings & History of an American Culture, the primary historic exploration of the methods R&B influenced Latin musicians and vice versa, got here out in 2007.
Developments like these made Quesada’s imaginative and prescient — for a brand new album that additionally related historic dots — begin to appear extra attainable. Coincidentally, Tomas Cookman, founder and CEO of Nacional Records, a lauded indie label that helps a variety of Latin acts, had additionally began working in the direction of an identical idea for a venture: “The Tejano world has been misunderstood for such a very long time,” he says. “I at all times bear in mind there being so many basic songs [from Latin artists in Texas] — you go into Freddy Fender’s catalog or the songs that Flaco Jiménez performed on. There had been tons of artists who had been mainly 45-only kind of artists on small labels. It was a special model of so many of those soul labels from the Northeast, however this was a Texas story, and to me, a Latino story.”
Cookman earned Amazon’s help, impressed that the corporate’s “Originals” program, which creates unique tunes for Amazon Music listeners, had helped acts just like the gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama. (Blind Boys of Alabama had been nominated for a Grammy this 12 months with an album they made for Amazon.) And Cookman put in a name to Quesada — the 2 had labored collectively on albums by the Echocentrics and Elastic Bond — whom he calls “a tremendous musician, and wonderful producer and [for this project, just as important] one primarily based in Texas.”
Initially Quesada and Cookman weren’t totally positive what The Latin Shade of Texas Soul would appear to be. “The concept of the album went by means of so many various phases,” Cookman says. “First we mentioned, ‘let’s attain out to extra Tejano older guys!’ Then we mentioned, ‘let’s get some mainstream people who’re primarily based in Texas!’ So we reached out to Demi Lovato and others.” “A whole lot of the old-school guys, I wasn’t on their radar, and so they perhaps weren’t into what I used to be attempting to do,” Quesada provides. “Mainstream people” additionally didn’t find yourself collaborating.
Adrian Quesada within the studio. Courtesy of Adrian Quesada.
But importantly, Quesada acquired a dedication from Ramos, “the one that made the wheels spin for me about 15 years go.” “I used to be like, so long as I acquired Ruben, no matter occurs from right here is sweet,” Quesada continues. “Also within the search course of, I began to search out youthful singers who’re carrying the torch, after which led me to folks like Jonny Benavidez, who was initially from California however had simply moved to Texas. Those had been my two anchors.”
The California-Texas connection made sense: “A whole lot of the music [older Chicano soul] discovered a few of its greatest viewers in California,” Quesada says. The producer additionally tracked down Johnny Hernandez, who sang within the Sixties group Little Joe & the Latinaires, fronted by his brother, and had relocated from Texas to California. There had been just a few different out-of-staters concerned, like Aaron Frazier, the drummer for Durand Jones and the Indications, and Cookman himself. But nearly everybody else who labored on The Latin Shade of Texas Soul was primarily based in-state; the vinyl was even pressed regionally. “We’re honorary Texans for this era,” Cookman quips.
The Latin Shade of Texas Soul is an extension of the musical dialog that Ramos remembered from his youth. The album excursions basic rhythm and blues: Here you’ll discover slicing funk, filled with driving, dive-bombing horns; shiny, guitar-first mid-tempo tracks like these made within the well-known Muscle Shoals studio within the late Sixties; and the aching, post-doo-wop sound typically labelled lowrider soul.
Frazier reveals off his outstanding falsetto in “One Woman Man,” a rueful ballad the place the singer slips nearer and nearer to infidelity. Ramos sings with husky energy in Spanish throughout “Boogaloo en Monterrey,” the place the brass evokes James Brown in 1964. And Hernandez interjects fairly fillips into his lead on “Ain’t No Big Thing,” which insists on shrugging within the face of life’s troubles: “I’ve acquired a sense that I’m shedding you/ But what’s the use, why fear, when there’s nothing I can do?”
During the sooner wave of Texas soul music by artists of Latin descent — Quesada collects lots of it on vinyl — distribution was a constraining issue. “A whole lot of the stuff launched out of San Antonio was all this one man, an actual property magnate named Abe Epstein who had a bunch of small labels,” Quesada says. “There had been limitations of the place they had been regionally and by way of the assets to get the music out.”
But within the streaming period, with a lift from Amazon, The Latin Shade of Texas Soul doesn’t face that drawback. And so for listeners from exterior of the Texas Latin soul scene, Quesada hopes his new album will function a gateway of kinds. “Hopefully from right here you get turned on to anyone you didn’t find out about, whether or not it’s the Latinaires information or Aaron Frazier on Durand Jones,” Quesada says. “Hopefully this opens doorways for different folks the best way it’s opened doorways for me.”