by guest blogger Luis Zapata
I met Manuel in a jukebox at Cafe Hernandez 15 years ago. I played a song and it was this huge orchestration with probably 12 horns (his arrangements) backing up his beautiful voice in a ‘50s bolero - the ones you only hear in cantinas and dives. I asked Leon Hernandez if he was still alive. He said yes - he eats lunch on Sundays at my restaurant with his family after church. That's how I met him in person and invited him to record at the defunct Lone Star studios. His album got a few cover magazines and the Austin Chronicle and re-established his career.
During our long friendship, a guitar player myself, have asked him many times to teach me how to play Latin acoustic guitar in the style of his favorite trios such as Los Panchos, Trio Latino, Los Tres Aces. Because , though a highly regarded orchestra arranger and director (buzz is he had 16 horns at some performances back in the day), his love is the honesty of bare guitars and straight to the heart romantic declamation. And he is a Master at it.
Over 10 years later, Manuel comes up with a new release - "The Brown Recluse Sessions" - recorded at Michael Ramos’ studio. A collection of songs that you can imagine songs he and his friends would take in serenade to pretty girls a many in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the barrio.
Perfidia, Me voy pal pueblo, Maria Isabel, Sin ti, El reloj. They say there is no perfect music. Well, this is as perfect as it gets. As romantic, as sincere, as pure, as straight, as real as it gets. This will certainly spin in the air at my next date.