A superb album of authentic-sounding Texas border-style music recorded deep in the wilds of Oxfordshire.
Listening to Ags Connolly’s fourth album ‘Siempre’ (‘Always’ for you non-Spanish speakers), you’d imagine he’d taken himself off to somewhere in Texas near the border with Mexico, hooked up with some local musicians he met in a sawdust floor bar, found a nearby studio and went off and recorded an album. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth as ‘Siempre’ was recorded at Woodworm Studios in the middle of the English countryside in bucolic Oxfordshire, produced by Ags and engineered and mixed by Stuart Jones. And whilst most of the musicians were from London, there is a definite connection with Texas as accordionist Michael Guerra is San Antonio based.
Having made his name as more of a honky-tonk singer (his previous album ‘Wrong Again’ was named UK Country Album Of The Year at the 2020 UK Country Music Awards), Connolly has made an album heavily influenced by Tejano music and barroom waltzes. As Connolly explained: “’Siempre’ is best described as Texas music album. Texas-style music is my favourite and it takes many forms – I wanted to celebrate them all” and on ‘Siempre’ he certainly does with ballads, waltzes, polkas all with the flavour of the border.
Over the eleven tracks you can hear the influence of the music of the area with a line-up of acoustic guitars, accordion, fiddle and bajo quinto, the combination of which evokes the sound emanating from a bar just outside El Paso filled with beer-drinking good old boys having a whale of a time.
Of the eleven songs, Connolly has written ten with the other being a superb cover of fellow Brit Wes McGhee’s ‘Half Forgotten Tunes’. The majority of songs are love songs but along the journey, Connolly sings of Tex-Mex and country music staples such as gringos, caballos, señoras, drinking, dancing, shooting pool and of course beat-up cars – all human life is here.
Connolly has the perfect voice for this kind of music – he even has the slight sibilance all good country singers should have and there are echoes of Charlie Rich and Los Lobos’s Louis Perez in his delivery. Apart from his own playing of guitar and bajo quinto, Connolly is backed up by some superb musicians and as well as the aforementioned Michael Guerra, there’s Rich Updegraff on various guitars, electric and acoustic, Anna Robinson on bass, Chris ‘CJ’ Jones on drums and the Nashville based Billy Contreras on fiddle. Guesting on ‘Turns Out’ is the illustrious and esteemed B J Cole not on pedal steel this time out but on dobro which adds another layer to the song.
If you like Texas-style music superbly sung and wonderfully played then ‘Siempre’ could be the album for you. It’s the perfect album for a summer’s night sitting out on your porch (or in your garden or wherever) with a beer or a shot of tequila and watching the world go by whilst being metaphorically transported to that little bar on the Texas/Mexico border you always wanted to visit.