Rancho Alegre hit up Turntable Records this past weekend and picked up Gambler Style, the new release from Ricky Naranjo y Los Gamblers! Like it was Christmas morning, we tore into it, popped it into the CD player and we weren’t disappointed.
First, let’s point out, as to where other media may get free copies of albums to review or play, at Rancho Alegre we truly support the artists by purchasing the CD. Not only does this support the artist, it also supports local CD stores (BIG shout out to Tomas at Turntable Records on South 1st Street here in Austin and Janie’s in San Antonio!). There have been times when people have sent us their albums over the internet to review, but we’re not in the habit of asking for free copies. And we definitely don’t demand a free copy in order for it to be played on Rancho Alegre Radio.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Ruben Naranjo and I’m also a huge fan of his son, Ricky, for carrying on Ruben’s tradition. Especially since, on a lot of Ruben’s old tracks, the quality wasn’t good, and by Ricky rerecording them, it brings them up to date to where we can actually mix them to use at dances.
Their latest release, Gambler Style, continues Ruben’s tradition. I’ve noticed that on several of their albums, Ricky and the boys are doing songs that Ruben never recorded, which is good. They’re branching out. I’m not sure if Ruben performed them on stage, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard recordings of Por Favor Comprende, etc., but it’s nice that they’re branching out.
Anyway, I like the album as a whole. There’s only one thing that doesn’t agree with me. I’m not a fan of English songs translated to Spanish, which is a trend that I’ve noticed lately (Michael Jackson immediately comes to mind). Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of songs, performed in English, with accordion, Conjunto style. That’s cool. On Gambler Style, there is a Spanish version of the Randy Travis hit country song, Forever and Ever, Amen, translated as Te Voy A Querer, which I feel is a gimmick song. Some people like that sort of thing, I know, but it’s not my cup of tea. I feel that we are too proud as Tejano and Conjunto artists to stoop to that. Once again, I love Ricky y Los Gamblers for their traditional style and believe me, fellas, you don’t have to stray from that. Stay true to the inheritance that Ruben left and the fans will follow you.
Like I said, the album as a whole is very good and carries on the proud Naranjo tradition. Ruben III’s voice sounds as good as ever and his accordion playing has matured. He nails his grandfather’s melodies and style, without a doubt. Ricky’s drumming, of course, is good, and the production is very well done. I don’t know much about Latin World Records, but I like what they’re doing.
I’ve seen Ricky live many times, and I’m always impressed. And if any of you new fans didn’t get a chance to see Ruben live, I urge you to go see Ricky. Because, as a former dancehall owner myself, this is a style of music that dancehall owners love. We love this type of band because the beer flies off the shelf and everyone has a great time. It is feel good music. Ricky captures this feel good vibe on his latest CD.
I, for one, hope that Gambler Style stays with the band, even after they’ve covered all of Ruben’s material and I hope they continue this style of record-making.
Prieta Linda captures the essence of Ruben Naranjo, as does Mi Negra Suerte. I’m especially happy to see Mi Negra Suerte remade, as that was originally recorded under the Gil label, which didn’t last long. (The Gil recordings are pretty hard to find, although we have copies of them and you’ll find many of the Gil tracks on Rancho Alegre Radio.)
Also, the popurri, which features Preso Sin Delito, Folsom Prison Blues (in English, not Spanish!), and Polka Alice, is very well done, and it goes back to what I said earlier. Songs can be done in English, and even arranged for Conjunto, without having to be translated into Spanish. A related example of this is Ruben Naranjo’s cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet classic She’s About a Mover, which Piper wrote about a couple months ago. Coincidentally, Ricky recorded a cover of that song himself on their Baila Conmigo album.
All in all, I give this album a good review of four stars out of five. My only reservation was Te Voy A Querer, which I would have preferred to have heard in English. My only request to the Gamblers for their next album, is that we would really like to hear a remake of Prenda del Alma, Don Luis El Tejano, and San Juan Del Rio. Is that too much to ask, guys?
Other than that, continue what you’re doing, continue to keep Conjunto alive. You know you have Rancho Alegre’s support in all you do.