Carnitas, Accordions, and Conjunto Records: a Sunday in San Antonio
Yesterday Cristina Balli and I met up with Dust to Digital founder Lance Ledbetter at Carnitas Uruapan in San Antonio's West Side, where legendary accordionist Santiago Jimenez, Jr. plays conjunto each week. Ledbetter was in the Central Texas area for the Austin Record Convention, where he featured Dust to Digital's extensive catalogue of regional folk and traditional music from around the world. Texas Folklife was more than excited to make the trip to San Antonio to introduce Ledbetter to Jimenez Jr., an artist we've featured several times, over a carnitas plate at Uruapan.
After some delicious tacos and Jimenez Jr.'s set of conjunto favorites, Ledbetter and I had the honor of heading to Jimenez's home recording studio and record archives. "El Chief" proudly showed us around his studio, telling us about how his grandfather learned to play accordion from German musicians in Eagle Pass, TX, the career of his father "Don" Santiago Jimenez, Sr., and some remarkable details about early conjunto recording sessions in San Antonio. Jimenez, Jr. explained that the train sounds heard on his father's recording of "Los Tres Bandidos" were the result of careful timing to capture the sounds of an actual train that rumbled past the studio in the early afternoon. This kind of detail was quite exciting for a couple of record junkies like Ledbetter and myself. Late in the afternoon we said our goodbyes to Jimenez, Jr. and headed back to Austin after a fulfililng morning of carnitas and live conjunto, and an afternoon of storytelling and careful listening.