Gio Chamba Falls Flat on ‘Tejas’
Gio Chamba, Photo: Courtesy of Artist
It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or how strong you are as a performer — if you release a record that doesn’t hit, it should be noted. I’ve always thought that Gio Chamba is one of the most exciting live artists in the Houston music landscape today. Possibly one of the most energetic acts to hit the scene since he wowed the audience at this last year’s Super Bowl and at FPSF in 2015, Chamba offered up a fresh take on the Cumbia music world like nobody else ever before. However, on his new album Tejas, most of that energy is lost on licks that sound like they were lifted directly from someone else and beats that are about as intriguing as it is to watch beats get made. While Chamba may be one of the strongest and most energetic local live performers in the past decade, even that can’t save him from the pitfalls of this release.
Opening things up with the melodic sounds of instrumental track “Flamin’ Hot Chido,” Chamba and Coffee Guzman enter into a tune that reminds you just a little too much of every jam that Santana ever performed in concert or on a Grammy presentation. The energy is here, as is the tropical and Colombian sounds Chamba employed on past releases, but you can’t really get away from the Santana sound enough to notice anything else from it. This of course brings us to the second track, “Only You Boogaloo,” where Chamba begins things with a chill and Latin soul sound that gives you hope for what will come after. However, the vocals sound off in pitch here, like Chamba is singing while submerged 200 feet deep in the ocean. While the song has plenty of nice merits, the vocals deter from any energy that the song could have earned on its own. Two tracks later, for some reason, Chamba decides to kind of rap on “H-Town Groove,” where only the female chorus vocals can save the song from turning you away. For a track that has plenty of groove, it doesn’t really seem to find its own, falling flat on the listener. It also doesn’t have a run time long enough to ever really get groovy.
One of the album’s highlights, “Jungle Tings,” finds Chamba revisiting his digital cumbia sounds of the past, and it really pays off. While I’m completely against artists doing the same ol’ same ol’, the use of the same sound that Chamba became known for really works on this track. It grooves just like the electro-Latin jam you’ve been waiting to sink your teeth into. However, on “High Rider,” those weak-seated vocals return and are all over the track to the point that you can’t get away from them. While the song’s music alone is noteworthy, the off-key vocals threw me off enough to deter from any musical merits that the song created.
Another highlight of the album, the ILL Faded featured “Tumba Raider,” hits with precision and ferocity that offers up the change in sound you wish was on more of the release. The production of the vocals offer up a sound that doesn’t sound off-base, while the song has a groove that you could hear on any radio station throughout the country. Things get closed off by the spacey and trippy sounds of “Tejas,” where those celestial moments are peppered throughout the track. While it’s a little strange that there are these little ploppy sounds that come in and don’t really fit with the track, the bulk of the song has the jam heavy sounds that Chamba has become known for.
While Chamba and Guzman bring one of the strongest live performances you can ever see in person, that’s not enough to merit this album worth more than possibly a two or three song EP. You can catch Gio Chamba bring his high-energy show to cities throughout the country this year when he performs on tour in the midwest and beyond. Tejas is available to stream on all of the usual places.