Look at My Soul: The Latin Shade of Texas Soul (Amazon Original) – Liner Notes
Depending on where you're from or who you’re talking to, you might hear Latin Soul referred to as Brown-eyed Soul, Chicano Soul, Oldies, or Rolas. These bits of jargon describe a sound that is rooted in both Black and Brown music — two cultures borrowing and exchanging ideas from one another, mixing them, and then laying them down on tape to create something special and original. This album is just like that.
Adrian Quesada, a Grammy winner of Laredo, TX, first conceived the idea for this LP over a decade ago while being interviewed with Tejano legend Ruben Ramos. The two casually chatted between interview takes about Black Music and the influence it had on both of their formative years — Ruben's being Soul and Adrian's being Hip-Hop. Today, Adrian is an in-demand producer and music director who is best known for his work with Black Pumas and Brownout; both of which have gained national recognition. A collector of Latin Soul records himself, Quesada wanted to explore the nexus of the Black and Brown sounds further to create what he calls a “love letter” to Texas Latin Soul.
This album is a collection of original compositions and carefully selected classics that embody the style of the golden era of Latin Soul. The songs themselves are recorded onto analog tape, with a few of them done entirely live in the studio — a true component to the Latin Soul sound which embraced imperfection in exchange for energy on recordings. From the opening drum break and horn section of the Radiants’ classic “Ain’t No Big Thing,” to the original lowrider-esque “Joey,” there’s a nostalgic connection drawn for the listener. Swirling and pulsing organs, reverb-soaked guitars & rimshots, big horn sections and harmonizing vocals - just a few ingredients that make up the warm sound of Latin Soul. The album plays like the dedication hour of your local radio station, a few cruisin’ classics mixed with funky numbers and hip-shakers that all move into one another effortlessly. There is even a nod to the South of Border with Freddy Fender’s “Boogaloo En Monterrey,” with lead vocals by Ruben Ramos, “El Gato Negro” himself — an endearing gesture to his late and sorely missed friend.
Quesada features a colorful multi-generation all-star cast of musicians on the album who have roots in Tejano music, like David Marez of Chicano soul groups The Eptones and Royal Jesters, and members of Mexican rock-n-rollers Los Lobos, to name a few. Quesada bridges the gap by introducing a younger generation who are carrying the torch today. Doo-wop protege Johnny Benavidez, multi-instrumentalist and falsetto vocalist, Aaron Frazer, the talented Amalia Mondragon, who sings lead on the haunting rendition of “Just Me and You” by the San Antonio based female trio the Dreamliners, and a duet by Eric Burton (Black Pumas) and Kam Franklin of the Suffers on the title track, “LOOK AT MY SOUL.” The tunes themselves are all backed by seasoned musicians like drummer JJ Johnson, vocalist & frontman Tomar Williams, members of Brownout, Grupo Fantasma, New Yorker & Daptone/Big Crown native Paul Schalda, and so many more.
The amount of talent and passion you’ll hear behind these recordings will be apparent, but its strength lies in its collaboration. Once again, various cultures borrowing and exchanging ideas from one another, mixing them, and then laying them down on tape to create something special and original. — Rae D. Cabello | Sept 2018 | San Antonio, TX