Tejano music, or more commonly referred to as Tex-Mex music, has a long and rich history stretching all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. Of course it has also made an impact on the history of country music, where it really started to influence the genre starting in the 1950s and 1960s. This was back when it was still called country and western. It was Texas where it primarily influenced country artists, as the dancing for country and western in Texas has the same style as the polka and waltzes that originated from Europe that ultimately helped shape Tex-Mex music.
Fast forward to today and Tex-Mex is gone from popular country music in both Nashville and Texas. Really the only notable groups to have a Tex-Mex influence on their music in country and Americana are The Mavericks, Los Lobos and Calexico. That is until Warner Music Nashville recently signed a new band called The Last Bandoleros, a Tex-Mex band out of San Antonio. The group is made up of Diego Navaira (vocals & bass), Jerry Fuentes (vocals & guitar) and Derek James (guitar & vocals). They’re also joined by a button accordionist. They self-describe their music as one part Tex-Mex, one part Brit-Pop and two parts country and rock. Navaira himself comes from a musical family, as his father is the late great Tejano artist Emilio Navaira (who was a great influence in helping connect Tejano music and country music). They’ve just released their debut single for Warner to country radio titled “Where Do You Go?” and I have to say I’m immediately intrigued on what they can bring to the table.
“Where Do You Go?” is an upbeat tune you’ll instantly be tapping your toes along with as you listen to it. The song itself is a simple heartbreak song about a man who goes out on the town with his woman who leaves him after he’s had enough to drink to not realize she’s left him. While the songwriting doesn’t have a lot of meat to it, it’s not supposed to because this song relies on its catchy instrumentation to be the meat of the song. And this really works well. The aforementioned accordion is there throughout the song and has some really nice solo parts in the bridge to give the song a decidedly different feel from anything else you’ve heard on country radio recently. When was the last time you can say you heard an accordion at country radio? I would guess The Mavericks in the 90s. The group also does a great job harmonizing, another element that has been missing from group songs at country radio.
I think The Last Bandoleros are a group worth watching after hearing “Where Do You Go?” I think it would be pretty cool to have a Tex-Mex based group have a regular presence at country radio if they would catch on. A lot of people aren’t familiar with Tex-Mex, but I think would enjoy it if they gave it a chance. It’s not only usually upbeat and fun, but a call back to the earlier days of country music. Anyone that is a fan of The Mavericks I think would enjoy The Last Bandoleros. Think of this group as a younger version of The Mavericks. Of course they have a way to go before they can put themselves in the same league as an iconic band like The Mavericks. “Where Do You Go?” is a solid start for this upstart band and I’m intrigued to hear more from them.
Written by: Jerry Fuentes, Emilio Navaira, Derek James and Diego Navaira