Tuesday, 16 December 2008 21:02

Seattle's Volcanoes release 10th CD 

While Texas may be the homebase for thousands of Tejano and conjunto bands, there are mini-Tejano tribes throughout the United States and Mexico.

Each year during the Tejano Music Awards FanFair, fans get a chance to check many of these new groups from all over.

Our Corpus Christi correspondent Rene Cabrera checks out one of these far-flung groups -Los Volcanes de Eddie Rodriguez.

Los Volcanes de Eddie Rodriguez have released their latest CD for Hacienda.  Called “Besos y Copas,” the CD is the 10th for the Corpus Christi label. If you have never heard of Los Volcanes, your ignorance is to be forgiven, because their stomping grounds are as far removed from South Texas as you can get. 

The traditional conjunto, whose handle refers to the not-so-subtle eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, hails from Seattle, Washington.  

But the group didn’t just evolve into a conjunto by osmosis.  As would be expected, there is a South Texas conjunto connection. 

Although Eddie Rodriguez, the accordionist/vocalist and leader of the group works out of Seattle and has lived there for some 30 years, the family tree is rooted in Brownsville. Eddie Rodriguez and his siblings were born in Brownsville and attended public schools there until his father, an aircraft mechanic by trade, took a job with Boeing in Seattle. And it was in Brownsville that Rodriguez was exposed to conjunto and Tejano music.

“My folks were promoters in Brownsville during the sixties, so I grew up around all the greats - Gilberto Perez, my padrino; Ruben Vela; Tony De La Rosa; all these great musicians would come over to see my folks every once in a while and if we had a BBQ going on a Sunday, they would play.  Once I heard that music and saw the chemistry, I wanted to be part of it too.”

If you’ve never seen Los Volcanes perform it’s because the group’s regular performance circuit includes venues in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  The group has been around since 1982 and has survived despite tough competition from norteno and a dearth of radio stations to support their style of music in the far northwest.

“We stay pretty busy with performances almost every weekend,” said Rodriguez.  “Some of the clubs we play are banda and norteno clubs, but we are competitive. In western Washington you’ll find puro norteno clubs.  But if you go to eastern Washington, to the Yakima Valley, and Moses Lake area, you’ll find a lot of Tejano,” he said.   Rodriguez says that Los Volcanes work so much in the northwest that they don’t get to work in Texas as much as they would like.  But that doesn’t mean that the group is totally unknown down here. “Jalapeno Radio in San Antonio plays us a lot and the folks down there respond well to our music.  I’m guessing Jalapeno Radio wouldn’t play us if we didn’t measure up,” he said. 

Besides Eddie Rodriguez, the band also includes David Olivares on bajo sexto; Art Garza on bass guitar; Sean Rodriguez on drums; and Sara Fonseca, who joined the band about a year ago, on vocals.

“We are big fans of Chavela and Brown Express, in the days when the real Brown Express and Chavela were so good - before she got together with El Tigre (Eduardo Hernandez of Los Tigres Del Norte).  So this gives us the ability to sort of pay tribute to her,” said Rodriguez.

According to Rodriguez, his parents were friends of Brownsville native Richard Fuentes, who joined San Jose native Chavela (Salaiza) to form Brown Express in 1976. 

As far as the album is concerned, this is a credible performance by a mature group that sticks to business with little fanfare to deliver a set of tunes that shows they are veterans who know what they’re about. The 12 piece album includes a mix of tunes that cover the usual cumbias, rancheras and one huapango, with Rodriguez anchoring at accordion in a paced and uncomplicated journeyman style.

You’ll find familiarity galore here, with tunes like “Donde El Viento Me Lleve,” “Es Puro Amor,” “Arrancame El Corazon,” “El Gavilan Pollero,” and a gem of a pick for the title tune, “Besos y Copas,” whose lyrics describe yet another romantic split.  Incidentally, “Besos y Copas” was written by Victor Cordero (1914-1983), an incredibly successful Mexican songwriter who penned some 700 corridos, among them such well known tunes as Gabino Barrera and Juan Charrasqueado.

Sara Fonseca shows an agile vocal style on a sprightly version of the cumbia, “Es Puro Amor,” on a ranchera called “Quiero Volverte Loco,” and on “Ya Te Vi.”

Find Los Volcanes at www.losvolcanes2000.com and www.myspace.com/losvolcanes