Growing up in Southern California and, then as now, always open to being exposed to cool music I had never heard before, I quite naturally was drawn to border radio stations…all with call signs that began with the wonderfully-appropriate letter X…that boomed an engagingly eclectic mix of music unlike anything else on the radio dial. Blues, rock’n’roll, Mexican folk songs and Chicano soul music, sweaty American rhythm and blues, Texas swing, all touched with sweet Latin flavor…side by side just like they belonged together (which, of course, they did) and mashed together into something new...something different…something thrilling and irresistible.
Border radio, freed from the namby-pamby 50,000-watt restrictions of the FTC, thundered through the night delivering 500,000 or more watts of unfettered musical joy far and wide (on most nights I’m told, folks could easily hear, for example, Wolfman Jack from coast to coast and to far flung points way beyond the borders of the US.)
Heard it on the X, the very tasty third album by the loose collective known as Los Super Seven, celebrates Border Radio in all of its glory, invoking the living spirits of Doug Sahm (represented here with two cuts), Buddy Holly, and all of other great musicians who ever had their joyful noises beamed unabashedly from Baja California to the wide, welcoming world. Anchored by a crack band of players (and despite the name of the group, there are indeed more than 7 musicians involved), an array of lead singers take their turns at the mike.
The title song, originally done by border radio fans ZZ Top, is a thick slab of pure chugging music that sums up the eclectic concept…it’s a bluesy, Latin-flavored, gut-bucket rock and roll joint with a groove that just won’t quit…with a great vocal by Los Super Seven veteran Ruben Ramos.
Sahm is given affectionate nods with the jumping “I’m Not that Kat (Anymore)”, powered by co-producer Charlie Sexton’s ringing guitar and John Hiatt’s passionate vocal, and the lovely “The Song of Everything”, sung by the incomparable Ralo Malo (who also opens the disc with “The Burro Song”, an engaging folk song powered along by Mariachi guitars and horns.)
Freddy Fender and Rick Trevino, offer up wonderful Spanish language cuts…”Cupido” and “Ojitos Triadores”…while Delbert McClinton slides smoothly into the Memphis R&B of “Talk to Me” and Lyle Lovett takes the lead on the fine Texas swing of “My Window Faces the South”. (McClinton shows up again fronting the throbbing electric blues of Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live”.)
Joe Ely resurrects Bobby Fuller’s classic “Let Her Dance” to nice effect and Rodney Crowell is featured on a sublime cover of Buddy Holly’s “Learning the Game”.
Bluesman Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown closes the disc on a spare, graceful note with a reading of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” (a song made all the more poignant by the fact that Brown has inoperable lung cancer and yet continues to perform…and wonderfully so…just the same.)
Clocking in at just under 40 compact minutes, Heard it on the X leaves you both satisfied and yet still wanting more. You can’t say that about a lot of CDs these days.