Ben Fong-Torres reviews the Krayolas

Ben Fong-TorresDid you like the Beatles? How about the Sir Douglas Quintet? In case you need a little memory-jogging, the Beatles were, like, the Fab Four. Oh — Sir Doug. That was a Texan, Doug Sahm, trying to hitch a ride on the British bandwagon in the mid-’60s by Anglicizing his band’s name. And it worked: “She’s About a Mover.” “The Rains Came.” “Mendocino.” Great stuff — [amazon_link id=”B00006JYVA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]even if “Mendocino” sounded decidedly un-British[/amazon_link].

Anyway, if you happen to like both bands, check out the Krayolas. They were a legend in their own time and space — the mid-’70s through the mid-’80s, San Antonio. I just got a CD and a hand-written letter (nice handwriting, too) from Hector Saldana, who, with his brother David, led this “teenage Chicano garage band.” The Krayolas specialized in emulated British pop (the ‘K’ is in honor of the Kinks) with a Tex-Mex accent.

Now they’re back. First came a local hit with “Little Fox,” written in 1967 by Augie Meyers, the organist who propelled so many great Sahm recordings, from Sir Doug through the Texas Tornados. The legendary Meyers joined the reuinited Kryolas. Then came a showcase at South by Southwest, the annual music conference and non-stop party in Austin. Raves. And now comes [amazon_link id=”B0019NH7Y4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]La Conquistadora[/amazon_link], one of the most invigorating albums of the year.

With Meyers on his Vox organ, which should be housed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by now, it’s a flashback to Sir Doug. But with the Saldanas’ harmonies, and with a set of sensational songs, the Krayolas also echo Dylan, Warren Zevon and, absolutely, the Beatles. Here’s a sample from “We’ve Got a Secret.”

These days, Hector Saldana is a writer and music columnist at the San Antonio Express-News, which means he needs to find a job with more stability. Re-starting a rock band is clearly the answer.

“We have no delusions,” Saldana wrote, “But the Krayolas were always a good plug-in-and-play band.” (In fact, they made the new CD the really old-fashioned way. They played, live, in the same room. They learned the songs during the sessions, and wrapped things up in three days.) They got a surreal/spiritual album cover from folk artist David Zamora Casas and passionate, poetic liner notes from John Phillip Santos. Now what?

Hector’s not sure. “We don’t have a manager, promoter or agent,” he said. “We do have a tailor — which is a start.”

They also have a website and one gear album (as Beatlemaniacs would say), available in stores and at online music sites. And, Hector says, “We still believe in that vibration.”