Los Fabulocos featuring Kid Ramos – Dos – Delta Groove Music DGPCD142, 45:12 ****:
(Jesus Cuevas – accordion, bass, guitar, vocals; Kid Ramos – guitar, bajo sexton, baritone guitar, slide guitar, harmony vocals; James Barrios – bass, harmony vocals; Mike Molina – drums; Manny “Big Manny” Gonzales – rubboard, timbales, harmony vocals; Raul Medrano – guiro, tambourine, shaker; Ron Dziubla – saxophone)
Los Fabulocos have become a standard bearer for the cali-mex movement of East Los Angeles and points south. Combining elements of tex-mex music with the chicano rock culture, this lively diverse mixture draws from blues, conjunto, zydeco, soul and even polka. Accordion player/ vocalist Jesus Cuevas and drummer Mike Molina were part of a popular roots band called The Blazers. The quartet morphed into The Fabulocos adding James Barrios on bass, and the accomplished Kid Ramos (Fabulous Thunderbirds, James Harman, Hollywood Fats and The Mannish Boys) on guitar. Their self-titled debut featured covers of a variety of Spanish and English language (Huey “Piano” Smith, Clifton Chenier and Lloyd Price) eclecticism with a moderate dose of original material.
The aptly named sophomore release “Dos” develops the maturity of the band. With a greater emphasis on the band members’ songwriting, the raucous aesthetics reflect a cohesive, exultant vibe. Cuevas contributes several tracks to this project. The opening number, “Everything Will Turn Out Alright” is breezy and optimistic, taking full advantage of Cuevas’ fluid tenor voice (It is impossible not to discern the resemblance to David Hidalgo of Los Lobos). The ensemble rocks out in cajun style on “The Vibe”. Kid Ramos has an explosive electric guitar solo that fits nicely with the accordion rhythm chords. A slower treatment, “I Never Thought” conjures up the slow dance ambiance of vintage Texas Tornados. A saxophone addition (Ron Dziubla) brands the song with a slightly more urban feel. Ramos elevates the dynamics of the various songs alternating electric, slide and bajo sexton guitar with dexterity and expressiveness.
The connection to Mexican folk is cultivated with great passion on three covers, “Los Chucos Suaves”, “Una Pura Y Dos Con Sal” and “Un Puno De Tierra”. Cuevas plays lead on accordion with unwavering lyricism. There seems to be an organic groundwork to the cultural themes of the Mexican-based tunes. A surefire highlight is the bilingual adaptation of Little Richard’s “Keep A Knockin’”. Ramos delivers jagged, swaggering blues riffs establishing a rock and roll attitude. Cuevas elects to sing in his own style and not do another trite impersonation of the peerless rock pioneer. An intriguing Ramos original (“My Brother’s Keeper”) is sketched with menacing guitar riffs and brash vocals.
Los Fabulocos are boisterous and just plain fun. The jacket painting by drummer Mike Molina featuring “skeleton” musicians sporting goatees (a la Dia de los Muertos) is an unexpected bonus.
TrackList: Everything Will Turn Out Alright; The Vibe; I Never Thought; Los Chucos Suaves; She Wakes Up Cryin’; Una Pura Y Dos Con Sal; What’s In My Heart: The Coffee Song; Un Puno De Tierra; My Brother’s Keeper; Keep A Knockin’; Calmen Su Rollo
— Robbie Gerson