When The Beatles formed in 1960, they stood on the cusp of a decade that was all about conventional conformity and the impending one that was anything but. By the time Beatlemania took over the planet in the mid-60s, a revolution was in full swing, musically and socially. Music was becoming more reactionary than it had ever been, with provocative lyrics and bold sounds taking over pop radio. The changing world around them was as much an influence on their music as any contemporary of the time. There was no shortage of original, groundbreaking music, unlike the famine the 21st century has seen. Part of the problem has been a downsizing of the market, and the reluctant nature of the industry to spend money on music that represents an amalgam of influences that don’t fit a single genre. Warner Music Nashville may be on the verge of turning that around.

    THE LAST BANDOLEROS WHERE DO WE GO The Last Bandoleros is not a group of outlaws you need to protect your valuables from, but with their debut single, “Where Do You Go?,” they might just steal the music scene. When I first heard this on satellite radio, it had me checking the station and the decade. The strong, unusual instrumental opening gives way to a wall of harmonies that never let up. The accordion takes on a prominent role alongside a 60s Brit-pop groove. At the 2:16 mark when they hit the ascending, harmonic “ahs,” I almost expected them to break out in “Twist and Shout.” It finishes as strongly as it starts and cuts off abruptly, serving up just the right amount to leave you wanting more. Much more. The end of the “Golden Age of the Accordion” coincided with the arrival of The Beatles, yet here the sounds coexist beautifully, lending an unusual power to those already tight harmonies. The specific accordion type is what adds a distinct, regional flavor to this inventive piece of music. Tejano music had a big influence on Diego Navaira, bass player and vocalist for the group, and the button accordion was often used in that style of music. Diego and Jerry Fuentes (guitarist and vocalist) were both raised in San Antonio, where Mexican music and Texas’ rich musical history are often intertwined to serve regional tastes. Derek James (guitarist and vocalist) is a New York native, adding his own regional style and musical influences to the mix.

     The title of The Last Bandoleros’ new single may question their own musical direction as much as the disappearance of a love interest. When you’ve been raised around Tejano music, Texas country, rock, and an eclectic mix of genre diversity, where do you go musically? Decades past required that you pick a style and stay in your lane. With the convenience, availability, and vast storage space of today’s music offerings, you can shuffle through decades and styles in a single playlist. Not that it’s been a positive for the music industry, but it’s also much more affordable to collect and listen to a vast array of music. It would be unfair to expect young musicians raised in this environment to make music that did not reflect such diversity. It’s a reality of their world as much as the tumultuous years of the 60s influenced that generation of musicians. How the industry comes to categorize and market it is still evolving. To some, this combination of established sounds may seem plagiarized and unoriginal. However, music has always been a mix of previous influences and groovy sounds that are remixed in the studio, with a touch of pioneering invention, based on the vision and talent of the artists. If that mix yields an honest reflection, you may just be on to something.

  WARNER MUSIC NASHVILLE LOGO   It would be premature to judge The Last Bandoleros on just one song, or make assumptions about what their debut EP will sound like. If it’s anything like this single, it will be a bold, brilliant statement that reflects their combined musical experiences. “Where Do You Go?” is a composition of unique elements that don’t often find themselves on the same page – an acoustic opening, a heavy drum throughout with added percussive pops here and there, a dominant accordion with accompanying electric guitar, which at one point challenge each other in a racy romp, and classic rock transitions toward the end of the song. The strength of tone and attitude is pure rock, while the pop harmonies and bouncy notes on the accordion give it a power pop flavor that carries the groove. The lyrics take a back seat to the music, which isn’t the norm in Nashville, well known as a songwriter’s town. With Warner Music Nashville backing this group, perhaps it means Music City is ready to embrace the unexpected and forge a new market for collaborative sounds. In a city famously known as the Country Music Capital of the World, The Last Bandoleros may just ride through town, steal the spotlight, and take their show on the road, leaving local fans with one question: “Where Do You Go?” With their outlaw look and tantalizing new sound, anywhere they want to.

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Bev Miskus

Blogger of all things music related in Nashville and beyond.

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