Sons of Texas – Baptized in the Rio Grande
By Andy Upton
Every once in awhile a band from Texas piques the interest of the rock crowd and I believe that Sons of Texas is that band. Many groups get the title of “next big thing” but eventually fade into the dark depths of musicland. With their debut effort, Baptized in the Rio Grande, these five guys from the “bowels of the States” (McAllen, TX actually) make quite the statement that they are for real and are here to stay. From the opening licks of “Never Bury the Hatchet” they come out firing on all cylinders and refuse to let up – it hits like a hammer with its machine-gun drums and personal angst lyrics. Vocalist Mark Morales stretches his voice in a hundred directions as guitars Jon Olivares and Jes De Hoyas take turns piercing ears with their fantastic abilities. “Pull It and Fire” starts off with some sweet acoustic guitar but quickly turns into an all-out stunner that bounces back and forth between soft and hard throughout.
This young band was very fortunate to sign on with master producer Josh Wilbur (credits include Hatebreed, All That Remains, HELLYEAH and Lamb of God to name a few) who worked his magic throughout this album. Nowhere is this more evident than the title track “Baptized in the Rio Grande”. This song should be on all rock stations in Texas (and the whole country) by this point – it’s that good. Drummer Mike Villarreal stands out on this track with a varied attack on his kit. Morales’ voice wails highs and low throughout with a great textured not usually found on a debut album. The opening line, “Way down, bred by bloodsuckers and dying trees…” paints an awful picture of the daily struggle of the residents in the “Valley”. “Nothing King” and “The Vestryman” continue the blues-based onslaught of tough luck life tales with bassist Nick Villarreal having some very cool notes in the latter song. Morales’ voice continues to amaze with its clarity and strength.
The guitar wailing and crazy hooks during “Blameshift” sounds very polished and the backing vocals bring yet another element to the plate for the Sons of Texas. Sincerity and thoughtfulness reign supreme during “Breathing Through My Wounds” and the eerie guitar note after the first verse haunts me in my sleep. The lucid feeling gets a big slap in the face during the up-tempo “Morals of the Helpless Kind” and the blues-rock swagger near the end brings it all together nicely. Whereas some albums start to fade near the end, “Baptized in the Rio Grande” actually picks up steam. “Drag the Blade” is a million-miles-an-hour tune with machine-gun drums and battling guitar work. The boys slow down a bit with the somber “September” but still find a way to make a beautiful slow ballad rock. The album closer “Texas Trim” reminds me of a time when debauchery and partying ruled this great state. The banjo (nice touch) then guitar and drum thrashing lead us into a good old fashioned song about the most sung about theme ever = sex. With lyrics like “”If you’ll blow my horn I’ll gladly ring your bell” – how can you go wrong. Sons of Texas have given us an awesome debut album and should be proud of the finished product. [quote]I look forward to more new music from these South Texas boys and you would be doing yourself a favor to pick this one up.[/quote]