Review: “¡Esta Bueno!,” Texas Tornados
Springtime in Texas is tornado season, but you better get ready: we are now in Texas Tornado season. Yes, the legendary Texas Tornados are back, with a new album and mucho appearances around the Lone Star state (including at SXSW). ¡Esta Bueno! is the new album, featuring original Texas Tornados Augie Meyer and Flaco Jiménez and Shawn Sahm, son of the late great Doug Sahm.
The original Texas Tornados were, of course, the Tex-Mex supergroup formed in 1989 by legendary musician Doug Sahm, singer Freddy Fender, keyboardist Augie Meyer and the great norteño accordionist Flaco Jiménez. Sahm died in 1999 and Fender passed in 2006, so when the two great voices of the Tornados left the planet, nobody thought a reunion was possible.
Nobody, except for Sahm’s son Shawn, who looks and sounds an awful lot like his dad. He always says, “the Sahm family makes music – that is what we do,” and to honor the fallen Tornados Shawn Sahm instigated the reunion of the surviving Tornados for this new record. And what a great album it is – ¡Esta Bueno! is not only a great party album, it’s a moving tribute to the late Sahm and Fender.
“Who’s To Blame, Señorita,” the joyous rocker that kicks off the album, not only manages to recreate the Texas Tornados sound, but also reminds us that the roots of that great sound were planted in the Sir Douglas Quintet. Written by Shawn and his dad, the song demonstrates happily that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. “If I Could Only” resurrects Freddy Fender – literally – he sings on one of the last songs he ever wrote. Fender reappears on “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like I Like,” and “Ahora Yo Voy,” as well as the countrified “Another Shot of Ambition.”
Lest you think ¡Esta Bueno! is solely a trip through the dusty vaults, Augie Meyer turns in the hilarious title song, about spicy jalapenos that will sting every orifice in your body. Flaco steps in to sing on “Chicano,” a song written by Doug Sahm and turns the polka standard “In Heaven There Is No Beer” into a bordertown cantina romp. The album closes with “Girl Going Nowhere,” a lost track from a 1990s Tornados recording session written and sung by Doug Sahm.
¡Esta Bueno! is muy bueno. Despite the powerful presence of the ghosts of Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender, this album is a joyous celebration of Texas music and the far-reaching impact these great musicians have had on American music. Like Johnny Cash’s new American VI: Ain’t No Grave, this music spits in the face of death and dances through the graveyard on the way to the next barbecue. This is life, man, and this is mighty fine music – thank you, Shawn Sahm for letting us remember one more time.
Listen: “Esta Bueno!”
YouTube: Texas Tornados in-store at Waterloo Records, Austin