One of the CDs that I picked up in Kuala Lumpur when I was there in January was Esta Bueno by the Texas Tornados. Released in 2010, this was the final album from the “ultimate Tex-Mex super group,” owing to the fact that two of the members, Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender, died several years ago. Shawn Sahm, Doug’s son, joined forces with Tornados members Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez to put the finishing touches on this recording. But rest assured that this is not some sort of lame patchwork of unreleased demos, but a solid set of typically lively Texas Tornados music. Shawn Sahm did indeed use some vocals and music that both his father and Fender recorded prior to their passing, but he and the band also recorded some new songs for this “reunion.” And damn, it all sounds really, really good.
If you haven’t heard this band before, fasten your seat belt. Or better yet, get up out of your chair and start dancing. The Texas Tornados combine rock and roll elements from Sahm’s legendary 1960s band, the Sir Douglas Quintet, along with a dash of country and a heavy dollop of Mexican Tejano and Conjunto styles to produce an invigorating musical synthesis. And for these accomplished musicians, it’s one that suits their collective styles perfectly.
Fender — he the singer of 70s hits such as “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” — sings songs in both English and Spanish, his vocals still strong and assured as he neared the end of his life. One of the most distinctive and joyous sounds in music is that of Flaco Jimenez’s accordion playing. Whether Flaco is playing on his own albums, those of the Texas Tornados, or ones by friends such as Ry Cooder, his accordion playing always meshes perfectly with the rest of the band. Another endearing facet of the Texas Tornados sound is the organ and piano playing of Augie Meyers (also a Sir Douglas member), sparking more fuel for the exuberant music.
Once in a while they slow things down for a ballad, usually sung by Fender, but overall this is raucous Tex-Mex party music. When the last song, the poignant “Girl Going Nowhere,” has finished, the listener feels a tinge of sadness, wishing the Texas Tornados could step out for just one more encore.