The Krayolas


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The Krayolas hail from San Antonio, TX, and like many cities in the Southwest, it's a place where two cultures sit side by side -- San Antonio is less than three hours from the Mexican border, and boasts a sizable Latino population influenced by the language, music, and traditions of both Mexico and the United States. The Krayolas have explored the cultural crosstalk that's been part of life in Texas for a while now, but they let it dominate the conversation on 2010's Americano; it's the first bilingual album from the group, featuring two songs sung entirely in Spanish ( "Fruteria" and "Soy la Pared") and a few that dip into both languages, and the music reflects the mix of power pop, rock & roll, and Tex-Mex sounds that's long been their trademark while folding in blues, norteña, folk, and R&B sounds that reflect the (usually friendly) collision of cultures that's a part of life in Texas. The album opens with "Exit/Salida," which features keyboards from Augie Meyers and recalls his great, rollicking sides with the Sir Douglas Quintet, while "Fruteria" is a sweet and tasty bit of Tex-Mex pop that infuses Tex-Mex and norteña with a luscious rock & roll groove. The title cut is a witty and cutting portrait of cultural ignorance in action, but while politics and race do play a role in Americano, Krayolas leader and principal songwriter Hector Saldaña wisely lets his music do the talking, and the way the many flavors of these tunes come together -- the raw blues of "Piso Diez," the uptempo garage rock of "Good Little Girl (She Don't)," the easy-going but heartfelt lovers' rock of "Home," the R&B swagger of "Show a Little Kindness," and the sweetly mournful sound of "Soy la Pared" -- is a good match for the way a fistful of seemingly divergent ideals and outlooks make room for one another in America in 2010. Sometimes it's harmonious, sometimes it's raucous, but it's sure never dull, and Saldaña and his bandmates (David Saldaña on drums, Van Baines on lead guitar, and Ramon "Junior" Jasso on bass) bring it all together with plenty of power, passion, and instrumental skill, while the guest musicians (including Flaco Jiménez and the West Side Horns) only add to the excitement this great band generates. The Krayolas already proved they were one of America's most interesting and thoroughly enjoyable bands with La Conquistadora and Long Leaf Pine (No Smack Gum), and Americano demonstrates they're just getting better, smarter, and more ambitious with each album.

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