He's Tex-Mex royalty with a pedigree that includes being permanently banned from Saturday Night Live, an honor previously reserved for Captain Beefheart and Miles Davis. He's done five part harmonizing with Michael Jackson when the King of Pop guested on his '82 release Synapse Gap.
Since 1976, Joe King Carrasco has been rubbing elbows with the crowned heads of Border rock, alongside Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Flaco Jimenez. Carrasco says he adopted the crown wearing from his idol Clifton Chenier. And while some of his music shares elements of Cheniers', including swamp pop, Carrasco's range also encompasses rockabilly and Cumbia as well as garage rock.
For his latest, Rucca, out on Anaconda Records January 21, Carrasco has reunited with bandmates from El Molino, the band that predates his most long running outfit, the Crowns. El Molino drummer Ernie Durawa and bassist Speedy Sparks are also Texas Tornadoes alumni as is Augie Myers who guests on organ on the title cut.
Slang for girlfriend or steady squeeze, “Rucca” is a Spanglish platter of Doug Sahm-ish nostalgia, mainly due to Myer's signature organ sound.
But Carrasco is no one trick pony. He's all over the place, whether it's broadcasting sax soaked border radio swamp pop with “On Top Of A Teardrop” in a manner Freddy Fender would have been comfortable with or belting out a boozy campfire ditty, “Muchos Frijoles Borachos,” (too many drunken beans,) a “99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall”-style remedy for roadburn on long van trips with children or perhaps a tequila flavored waltz opportunity in a dusty Cantina in a border town.
“Nacho Daddy” sounds like a street corner chorus of wise ass would be Romeos calling out their alleged qualifications and availability for hook ups since their former meal provider has been holding out on the frijoles, guacamole and tamales and he's “nacho daddy anymore.”
He tosses in some ZZ Top flavoring with Everly Brothers harmonies on “I Wanna be Loved,” topping it off with a Doug Sahm-flavored “Tamale Christmas,” which comes with bragging rights for setting a Tamale selling record in a Texas bar when he played in the '70s era Mariachi /Tejano outfit Shorty and the Corvettes.
In the capable hands of Joe Carrasco, Tex-Mex music is alive and well. Long live the King.
By Grant Britt