Ear Bliss travels to Texas this week shining the spotlight on a couple of newly released and recommended historical collections. San Antonio is a hot spot for Cinco de Mayo (which is on Sunday) and the sounds of Mexican polkas and rancheros that fill the air. Another side of the Latin-American music equation in that South Texas metropolis is soul and R&B. We take a look at a fabulous collection of this San Antonio sub-genre. South Texas, namely the Crawfish circuit which in the Lonestar State is defined by the Houston-Port Arthur-Corpus Christi triangle, is also renowned for its R&B and soul scene that spawned greats from Johnny Adams to Barbara Lynn. A newly released collection from the Kent Soul division of Ace Records unearths some beauties. Let’s dig in.
Eccentric Soul: The Dynamic Label
Numero Group Records
Excavators of sound Numero Group Records of Chicago reignite their Eccentric Soul series with a trek down to the Alamo City, a.k.a. San Antonio, to unearth for the masses the many flavored 1960s brown-eyed soul sounds of the regional Dynamic Record label and its various offshoots. Dynamic Records was the brainchild of San Antonio real estate and record mogul Abe Epstein. Epstein Enterprises had their fingers in lots of stuff, and perhaps that is why his recording enterprises, which had some regional success, never struck much gold beyond that. Epstein’s run as a record man spanned the early 1960s through 1973 with label imprints such as Vallado, Groovy, Beckingham, Soulsville USA, and Metro-Dome. Dynamic Records began in 1965 with its centerpiece a four-piece vocal group called the Commands who honed their chops on the Air Force base circuit. Its first recording session for Dynamic found it backed by a young Latino group called The Dell Tones. The single, released in 1966, was a groovy slice of doo woppy dance music called “No Time for You” and laid the groundwork for some subsequent 20 different singles in the next 30 months carrying the Dynamic name. It set the stage for the sumptuous soul sounds to follow from the label from area entities like Tonettes, Little Jr. Jesse & the Tear Drops, Don & the Doves, Willie Cooper & the Webs, Bobby Blackmon & His Soul Express and Doc & Sal, and all represented on this excellent compilation. Whereas national chart success eluded these performers and the 21 tracks comprising this well-worth-your-greenback-dollar collection, this slice of soul of the San Antonio variety is pretty priceless snapshot of a scene little known beyond Lone Star lines. Consider it must-have goods for aficionados of 1960s soul. Visit www.numerogroup.com .
South Texas Rhythm & Soul Revue
Call him one of the ultimate record men, the fellow who put the likes of the Sir Douglas Quintet, Freddy Fender, and soulstress Barbara Lynn on the map. Label owner, producer, and even songwriter, Meaux was a Houston-based restless raconteur who recorded more soul music in the 1960 and ‘70s, not to mention a pretty healthy batch of blues, country, rock and roll, swamp pop, and Cajun music, than any other producer in the Lone Star State. Soul music and R&B is the focus of the brand new various artist collections from Ace/Kent Records titled South Texas Rhythm & Soul Review. The 24-track set is a beauty focusing on some of the great soul sides of Meaux’s Crazy Cajun record label. Taken from original masters from the tape vault of Houston’s legendary Sugar Hill studio, the collection mixes choice tracks from both the familiar (Johnny Copeland and the “Tan Canary” himself, Johnny Adams, the aforementioned Lynn, and a young Johnny and Edgar Winter with their early band The Insights) and unfamiliar (tracks from Tee Bee Fisher, TV & the Tribesmen, and Alton Valier are all choice rarities). The compilers even treat the listener to the demo version of Lynn’s soul smash “You’ll Lose a Good Thing.” Whereas Meaux’s latter years were tarnished by a 15 year stint behind bars, he knew talent when he heard and saw it with South Texas Rhythm & Soul Revue proof positive of that keen ear. Visit www.acerecords.co.uk .
Texas bluesman and Westerly native Johnny Nicholas returns to the Ocean State on Friday night for a show at The Knickerbocker Cafe in Westerly (35 Railroad Ave.). Music starts at 8 p.m. Vudu Sister will hold a record release party at The Columbus Theater (270 Broadway) in Providence on Saturday. Also on the bill are The Silks and Brian Webb. Doors are at 8 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m.
Sunday is Cinco de Mayo Day and perhaps no local venue celebrates it finer than The Ocean Mist (895 Matunuck Beach Road, Matunuck). As is par for the course at The Mist, music is part of the festivities with the high voltage Brooklyn-based funk army Turkuaz providing the fun for revelers. It’s a special Sunday afternoon show with music from 3:30 p.m. 6:30 p.m.
The Music at Lilypads (Unitarian Universalist Church, 27 North Road) presents a special Sunday afternoon show they’re billing as “Ballads and Crankies”. It features the Brooklyn-based duo The Murphy Beds who specialize in Irish ballads and from Virginia, the duo Anna & Elizabeth bringing their bag of mountain tunes. Music begins at 3 p.m.
(Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.)