10 tracks / 30:17
Los Tijuana Blues is a band out of Valencia, Spain that has found inspiration from the Chess Records and Excello Records catalogs of the 1950 and 1960s, and added a healthy dose of Tex-Mex style to end up with the Spanish equivalent of the whacky North Carolina band, Southern Culture on the Skids. Their first album, Thunderbird Motel, is a fun and fascinating blend of blues-rock, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and surf rock.
Guitarist Javier Tijuana founded the band a few years back, and he is joined on this release by vocalist Vince Lewinsky, and a rhythm section of J.C. Mota on the bass and Alexis Alemany behind the drums. Coming in at 30 minutes, this is a short album (almost an EP), and it is made up of ten tracks, eight of them originals written by Tijuana. None of these songs lasts more than four minutes, so you will not find any epic guitar solos or psychedelic experimentation here.
This quartet hits hard right from the start with “Sweet Evil Mama” and Javier’s jangly Telecaster hammers this catchy blues rocker into your head. Get used to it, you are going to hear a lot of this over the next nine songs. Lewinsky’s vocals are raw and enthusiastic while Alemany’s dry snare keeps the beat with precision.
After the opener they run through the two cover tunes, both of which they put their own spin on. Bobby Fuller’s 1964 song “Wine Wine Wine” has been roughed up into a country rocker, which is a debatable improvement over the original. And the Midnighters’ “Open Up Your Backdoor” loses the piano and do-wop and ends up as a slightly faster blues rocker. Javier is quite a good guitarist, and he gets to cut loose a bit on this track, which ends up being one of the standouts.
After some straight-up blues (“Last in Line”) and a little rhythm and blues (“Callin’ Me Blues”), Los Tijuana Blues gives a quick nod to their Spanish heritage. This break starts with an instrumental “Corrido Amoroso,” which is a Latin-tinged surf rock tune, then segues into “Dices Que Te Alegras,” the only song from the disc that is sung in Spanish. When these lyrics are presented with old-style reverb-soaked guitar the effect is mesmerizing, and it turns vintage-feeling rock and roll into something special.
Lewinsky croons on the swinging “Caught by the Tail,” showing a smoothness that has not appeared previously on the album, while Tijuana matches him with slick chords and a very pretty guitar solo. But they keep changing the tempo and feel from track-to-track so the listener never gets bored, and after the Texas boogie of “She’s a Hot One” the band finishes up their set with a another surf instrumental, “Blue Monkey.” Before you know it the album is over.
Unfortunately, there are a few hitches along the way. For starters, for ten bucks it would definitely be good to get more than a half hour of music. Also, the album is mixed with really heavy guitar and vocals, so much that the kick drum is lost and Mota’s bass is very hard to hear, either through speakers or headphones. That being said, it is still a fun record with very catchy tunes that would be a great soundtrack for your next cookout.
Los Tijuana Blues is off to a good start and they have created their own distinctive sound that should have staying power. Check out a few of their songs on iTunes and see what you think!