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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