Flaco Jimenez

The problem with Flaco Jimenez's recent career is that he has often sounded like a guest star on his own albums. For years, every rock and country artist who wanted a steaming, hand-patted corn tortilla slapped on one of their tunes has rung up Flaco, and his 2000 release, Sleepytown -- with guest shots from the likes of Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam and his old compañero Doug Sahm -- sounded like a compilation of this stuff. Also, at times, his relentless experimentation tended to run away with him. Not so with Squeeze Box King, his new disc on Houston's Compadre Records. This is Flaco updating the rancheras, cumbias and boleros that have always been his stock-in-trade, and his fast fingers are as lively as ever. Highlights include the gritty prison ballad "Tumba Sin Flores," a beautiful version of the aching old bolero "Prenda del Alma" and a first: a Spanish-English-Dutch version of the Czech polka "In Heaven There Is No Beer." (Flaco's singer "Nunie" Rubio's Dutch wife provided the translation.) This marks the first time Flaco has been the sole producer of his own record, and there's nary a star cameo in sight. With a musician of this stature, why should there be?


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