Frankly, you're a fool if you think you have to go up the road to the "Live Music Capital of the World" to see some classic, homegrown Texan artists. San Antonio has a rich and delightedly quirky musical tradition, taking Tex-Mex culture to new sonic highs.
Take for starters tejano and conjunto, the genres born and bred in South Texas and San Antonio. Grammy winners Max Baca y los Texmaniacs gig pretty frequently around town, performing their blend of tejano rock and cowboy blues. It's well worth Grammy Lifetime Achievement-winning accordionist Flaco Jiménez in solo form. Since the '70s, Jiménez has released 14 solo albums of scorching button accordion riffs. Seeing the squeezebox institution is a San Anto tradition — we recommend doing so during his boisterous, if infrequent, gigs at Hi-Tones (621 E. Dewey). Another local favorite is Eva Ybarra, La Reyna del Acordeón, with a hurricane-strength contralto. With a heavily-stamped musical passport, Tish Hinojosa offers a deep understanding of the folk styles of Mexico and America, from country to the corridos and boleros of northern Mexico.
Operating in her own Tex-Mex vein is songwriter Patricia Vonne, splitting between English and Spanish and time between Austin and SA. The sister of director Robert Rodriguez, Vonne's silver screen highlights include a roll as Zorro Girl in Sin City, though her five albums to date are as killer as any work she's put down on celluloid.
Performing at Olmos Bharmacy (3902 McCullough) or V.J.'s Squeeze Inn Club (1755 S. General McMullen), the West Side Horns are one of the last strongholds of the West Side Sound. Beginning in the '50s, the Chicano musicians integrated Spanish language and Latin rhythms into blues and R&B, developing later into vicious funk. Sadly, many of the musicians of the West Side movement have passed, or are no longer playing, leaving a long legacy of YouTube links, seven-inches and reissues. But, the barrio oldies live on with trumpeter Arturo Gonzalez and the West Side Horns, performing San Anto classics like Randy Garibay's "Barbacoa Blues."
Let's not forget about rock 'n' roll. SA native Alejandro Escovedo began his career in the early '80s with San Francisco punk outfit The Nuns, transitioning into his current brand of charming blues rock in the mid '90s. On hiatus from hometown alt-rock favorites Girl in a Coma, Nina Diaz is putting in exciting work, blending cumbia rhythms and electronic instruments into her comatic work. And, of course, there's the Texas Tornados, the tejano rock supergroup founded in 1990. Though Doug Sahm and Freddy Frender are in the great Tex-Mex gig in the sky, Doug's son Shawn has joined with founding organist Augie Meyers and accordionist Flaco Jiménez to help keep "Hey Baby Que Paso?" — a local anthem — active in SA dancehalls.
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