Audio Remasterer: Vic Anesini.
Liner Note Author: Randy Poe.
Recording information: Alex Great Studios, Nashville, TN; Elephant Tracks, San Antonio, TX; Sound Emporium, Nashville, TN; The Boiler Room, Austi, TX.
Compiled by Real Gone Music, this 20-track set includes both albums Tex-Mex conjunto king Flaco Jimenez cut for the short-lived Americana subsidiary Arista Texas in the mid-'90s. By this time, Jimenez was already a 40-year veteran of the music biz, having made his first recordings with the group Las Caminantes in the mid-'50s. He was also an all-star, go-to session player for a wide variety of both Anglo and Latin musicians not only in Texas, but in Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York. As a leader, he had recorded numerous albums for small independents including the well-known Arhoolie and Rounder labels. He won a Grammy in 1986 for a recording of one of his father's songs, and another in 1990 as a member of the all-star Texas Tornados with Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, and Augie Meyers. Jimenez's sole album for the majors had been 1992's Partners, for Reprise. It placed the great accordionist and harmony vocalist in a stew with high-profile guests including Stephen Stills, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dwight Yoakam, and Los Lobos, with mixed results. The first of these two dates is a self-titled offering from 1994. It was experimental in nature, combining neo-traditional country with conjunto. Some tunes are sung in English or bilingually with guests such as Raul Malo ("Segura Que, Hell Yes") Radney Foster ( "Jealous Heart" and "Open Up Your Heart"), and Lee Roy Parnell ("Catwalk") backed by country session aces. Jimenez's band holds down the rest, playing killer conjuntos both original and traditional. While the album sold relatively poorly due to an unfocused/non-existent promotional campaign, critics and industry insiders liked it enough (rightfully) to award it a Grammy in 1995. The second date here, 1996's Buena Suerte, Senorita, is hardcore Tejano conjunto, played by the accordionist's stellar live band. While the first album holds up well over time, this is easily the better of the two. It's more immediate, warm, bright, and natural. It combines the freedom of the Arhoolie sides with better sound. It opens with a cover of Danny Perez's minor hit "Borracho #1," but Jimenez's raw, uptempo reading is the definitive version. Other highlights include the title track with Jimenez uncharacteristically taking a lead vocal (most of the rest are handled by Oscar Tellez, with the leader in his more comfortable role as harmony vocalist), Oscar Martinez's "El Gallo Copetón," Flaco's own "Tico Taco Polka," and Jose Morante's classic, bittersweet romantico "Mis Brazos Te Esperan." This is a necessary collection that documents a key period in Jimenez's career, and for the price, it's unbeatable. ~ Thom Jurek