Mando Saenz,
(Carnival, 2004)

Mando Saenz is the first Mexican-born, MBA graduate I know of who is also a singer-songwriter of folk music bordering on country. It may sound like a strange route for someone whose music would be more at home in Nashville or Texas -- where Mando grew up -- but in his case, better late than never.

Mando's vocals are melancholic for the most part. He suffers from Southern mush-mouth, meaning it almost sounds as if there isn't much effort expended on getting the words out. (As a fellow Texan, I too have been accused of speaking like this by my Yankee brethren. If you aren't from the South, you'll never relate to the natural desire to slow down in all things, including speech, in this hotter climate). The vocals on Watertown are pleasant, yet a little guttural at times. The raspy sound aids the prevailing feeling of sadness Mando emits on the slower songs.

The title track, "Watertown," is about Corpus Christi, Texas, I believe. (The promo material mentions that Mando grew up in Corpus). It is a nostalgic song about looking back. This laidback track is representative of most of what you will hear on this CD. Mando sings about his mother and father as well as the day Elvis died.

One of the catchier tracks on the CD is "Engine Roll." There is a slight Cajun/zydeco feel to the piece. The song is, not surprisingly, about a train and perhaps that is the image the music is supposed to invoke. For me, I think of Louisiana bayous. The pace is faster than most of the offerings on Watertown.

While Mando sings, plays acoustic guitar and harmonica, he is also backed up by several musicians including Tommy Detamore (pedal steel, lap steel, dobro guitar and electric guitar), Bobby Flores (fiddle, acoustic guitar, classical guitar and mandolin), Dan Dreeben (drums and percussion), David Carroll (electric bass and stand up bass) and Joel Guzman (accordion).

This is the second time that this collection of songs by Mando Saenz has been released. All tracks are Saenz originals. I think most of the melodies are pretty and the CD, for the most part, should appeal to listeners of folk and country. Watertown is a short CD, clocking in at less than 39 minutes. Now that Mando Saenz is no longer pursuing a career in the business world, perhaps he'll have time to create new music for fans he has surely acquired in Texas and now, perhaps, throughout the country with the re-release of his first 10 songs.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 21 May 2005

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