Picks and Pans Review: Hangin' on by a Thread

updated 11/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Texas Tornados

The Texas Tornados' third album is like a town populated with harmonious mixed marriages. Boisterous blues guitars trade licks with mincing conjunto accordions; a Dylan ballad is reinvented as a waltz and crooned bilingually; a thumping reggae bass grooves with a mariachi trumpet.

All of this is the work of longtime Tex-Mex troubadours Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jimenez and Freddy Fender, four potbellied grandads who were astonished by the success of their 1990 debut, Texas Tornados. Their most successful songs are hybrids of Latin and gringo, as in the bawdy "Guacamole" and the breezy "La Grande Vida."

They're not quite as much fun when they alternate pure rock tunes with pure conjunto, as they do too often on Hangin' On. The title track is an all-American rocker with preposterous lyrics, beginning as an angry lover's tirade and inexplicably dissolving into a tribute to the Grateful Dead. It is rescued by two no-brakes guitar solos delivered by Sahm's son, Shawn, while the old man shouts, "That's m'boy!" This is followed by "Tus Mentiras" ("Your Lies"), a romantic Spanish tearjerker. Both songs are good, but together they're like a bacon cheeseburger followed by a plate of burritos.

Still, heartburn is a small price to pay for the pleasures of a band that can hold its own on both sides of the Rio Grande. (Reprise)

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