Each year at South By Southwest, I end up with a pile of CDs, most of which I never play. But this year, several of those discs are worthy of attention.
"Que Wow" is the new disc from the reunited original version of Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns. It's Tex-Mex rock ‘n' roll at its finest, sounding like the band never broke up -- even though it's been 31 years since the last recording.
Kicking off with the boisterous, Farfisa-filled "Drug Thru The Mud," then the title cut, "Que Wow" romps through party songs like "Havin' A Ball," pays tribute to the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, club where Carrasco leads the house band with "Nacho Daddy," and tosses in lots of references to frijoles and tamales as it bounces through Caribbean-influenced tunes and, of course, some hopped-up polkas.
"Que Wow" isn't as over-the-top wild as the Crowns' 1980s records, but it's a more musically accomplished effort. Carrasco has become a very good guitarist over the years, and this is nothing but fun, fun, fun. You can get a copy of "Que Wow" at www.joeking.com. Grade: A
The Cornell Hurd Band is an Austin mainstay that's delivered Texas honky tonk and swing for 35 years. "Drop in on My Dream" is Hurd's 16th CD since he landed in Texas in 1977, and it's another solid effort.
The songs here are of loving and losing and women in skin-tight clothes. The arrangements are classic but still fresh, with an unexpected set of saxophones providing some punch, lots of slippery steel guitar and rolling honky tonk piano, some of which is provided by Lincoln native Sweet Basil McJagger.
If you like real country music -- make that real Texas music -- check out "Drop in on My Dream." Get it at www.cornellhurdband.com. Grade: B+
The final CD only had one song, and it is a cover. But it's killer. The song is by Little Wesley, which is Nick and Jason Saldana, who have a Black Keys/White Stripes guitar/drums sound going on. But unlike those bands, Little Wesley isn't playing blues rock -- they're a rock ‘n' roll outfit.
Their cover choice is perfect: the ultra obscure Everly Brothers track "I'm Not Angry." Then it's delivered in raw, rollicking fashion with always-cool brother harmonies really making it connect. You can hear "I'm Not Angry" at www.littlewesley.com. Grade: A
That's it from SXSW. In Friday's Ground Zero, I'll catch up on new releases from the last couple of weeks including from Dr. John, Paul Weller and Le Sera.