Vallejo's major-label debut may have smoothed out the band's rough edges, but the guys still kick out the raucous Latin jams live.
Christian Lantry

With all its mala suerte seemingly behind it, Austin's Vallejo was finally able to release its major-label debut, Into the New, earlier this year and get back to what it does best: kick out some Latino-influenced jams. Although a few too many rough edges were smoothed down by the time the artist and the record company reached the usual major-label compromises, the six-member band on New still sounds absolutely nothing like the rest of the Latin-pop pack. But here's the real thing to note: The band maintains an unkempt, raucous vibe in a live setting (not to mention the post-gig parties). Make no mistake, Vallejo is a hook-laden pop band, but don't show up expecting vocalist A.J. Vallejo and his two brothers (twin Alejandro on drums, Omar on bass) to show off any Menudo meringue moves; they leave that for the one-beer-too-many dancers in the pit. Omar, Alejandro and percussionist James "Diego" Simmons lay down a double-wide groove, enhanced by the addition earlier this year of a second rhythm guitarist, Heath Clark (ex-Sunflowers) who accompanies, rather than drags along, the rock riffs. It's a band that grew up in a household with Tito Puente and Herb Albert on their parents' turntable (and with Aerosmith in the bedroom tapedeck). The results are obvious.

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