Sneak Preview: Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds by Los Texmaniacs (available July 31)
On July 31, Smithsonian Folkways will release GRAMMY-Award winning conjunto group Los Texmaniacs' Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds. The 18-song album features a blend of polka, boleros, ballads, and Western swing, drawing from the rich tradition of Tex-Mex culture and signaling a new social relevance and creative expansion. This is their second album with Smithsonian Folkways following the GRAMMY-winning Borders y Bailes in 2009, and features renowned Western swing singer Ray Benson and fiddle player Jason Roberts from the group Asleep at the Wheel, as well as GRAMMY-winning fiddler Bobby Flores.
Max Baca, a virtuoso of the bajo sexto (a type of 12-string guitar), formed Los Texmaniacs in 1997 after his decade-long career with popular and innovative group the Texas Tornados. The San Antonio-based quartet Los Texmaniacs have performed for US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia/Kosovo, and have also played in China, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, acting as ambassadors of conjunto music and Texas culture worldwide. They also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on three occasions.
GRAMMY Award-winning and highly respected artist Flaco Jiménez said of the group: “I think Max [Baca] is the top dog on the bajo sexto… and [Los Texmaniacs accordionist] David Farías is a superb player. We’re all on the same page. They’re a real tight band, man.”
Today’s social relevance of conjunto music came from its embrace of the button accordion–driven Tejano sound, adopted by the Chicano civil-rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s as a symbol of Mexican-American collective identity. The music that began as a localized social dance music at the turn of the 20th century became a means of social and cultural resistance to discriminatory practices and a cultural symbol for building a united community across regional divides among Mexican Americans. Conjunto music became part of the soundtrack to the struggle for farmworkers’ rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, and protests of urban Brown Berets. On June 22, Los Texmaniacs and special guest Mingo Saldívar will open for Kris Kristofferson at the United Farm Workers’ 50th anniversary celebration in San Jose, CA.
Texas Towns & Tex-Mex Sounds is the 38th release in the Smithsonian Folkways Tradiciones/Traditions series since 2002. The series, a co-production with the Smithsonian Latino Center, showcases the diverse musical heritage of the 50 million Latinos living in the USA.