Legendary San Antonio accordionist Santiago Jimenez Jr. estimates he’s put out 85 records over his 60-year career.
The 86th record could introduce Jimenez to a whole new audience.
Still Kicking! is the first release of Austin country rocker Jesse Dayton’s new label Hardcharger Records. Dayton is a legend in his own right, having recorded with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Glen Campbell, and Jimenez’s older brother Flaco Jimenez, among many others.
Dayton sees Santiago Jimenez Jr. in the same category as those music luminaries and wants to see him recognized by a wider audience.
“I liked the idea of being able to put a regional legend in a world music platform,” Dayton said, speaking of the potential to reach audiences throughout North and South America, Europe, and beyond.
Straight outta the barrios
The Hardcharger label is an imprint of Los Angeles-based Blue Élan Records, which also puts out Dayton’s music. But the Austinite still had to convince his LA colleagues that a Jimenez record was the right move.
“Signing a 77-year-old heritage Latino genius is kind of out of left field,” he said. But he told his colleagues “this is going to be the next step in music.”
Younger listeners are getting turned on to older music through its timeless appeal, Dayton said, citing the example of producer Rick Rubin making iconic recordings of Cash late in the singer’s life.
“My job is to get the record to everyone,” he said, “and let them know that, ‘Hey, if you’re into Los Lobos, and The Clash … buy this record, put it on while you’re having a barbecue in your backyard, you will have San Antonio exported into your backyard. … It’s great party music.’”
Dayton said he loves San Antonio, having played with Sahm and toured frequently through the city. When musician Garrett T. Capps, a longtime supporter of Jimenez who conceived of and produced Still Kicking!, approached him with the new recording, Dayton said his reaction was immediate: “I was like, ‘Wow, this is straight out of the barrios of San Antonio. It’s the real deal.”
Capps was familiar with Jimenez’s recent output, recording alone in his home studio and releasing compact discs on his own label, Chief Records. Capps raised the notion of bringing Jimenez into a professional recording studio and enlisting Max Baca and Noel Hernandez of Los Texmaniacs to back him up.
“The ‘Maniacs are the best in the biz,” Capps said. “I consider them the hardest working and most progressive conjunto band in the world,” he said, “but they also know traditional conjunto as well as anyone.”
A legend honoring a legend
Jimenez insisted that Hernandez play tololoche — a type of acoustic upright string bass — in part to honor the legacy of his father Don Santiago Jimenez Sr., who transformed early conjunto by introducing the instrument in the late 1920s.
The result is a 10-song album, available in digital form as a download or on compact disc, and as a vinyl record.
The lead single is “Al Mirar tu Cara,” a song Jimenez said his father never recorded but played frequently as a live performance favorite.
“My dad would play it at his dances, it was a great song I remember him singing, it’s a song about seeing a pretty face that you cannot forget,” Jimenez said on the Blue Élan Records web page promoting the album.
Still Kicking! will officially be released Friday evening at the Lonesome Rose, during a concert featuring Jimenez at 9 p.m. followed by Garrett T. Capps and NASA Country, and Jesse Dayton. Advance tickets are sold out, but a limited number of door tickets will be available for $15.