Siempre is the fourth studio album from Ags Connolly and marks a change in direction for the traditional country singer-songwriter, yet without leaving his trademark honky tonk sound behind. As with his previous record Wrong Again (2019), named UK Country Album Of The Year at the 2020 UK Country Music Awards, Siempre (due on June 16th) was produced by Ags himself and recorded at Woodworm Studios in Oxfordshire with London-based players in guitarist Rob Updegraff, bass player Anna Robinson and drummer Chris ‘CJ’ Jones. Crucial contributions also came from San Antonio-based accordionist Michael Guerra (playing on his third Ags record) and Nashville fiddle player Billy Contreras. In addition, legendary UK pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole added dobro to one of the tracks on the album.
Siempre takes the glimmers of Texas border sounds heard on Ags’ last two records and merges them with Tejano music and barroom waltzes, while also accommodating his honky tonk and singer-songwriter roots. “It’s best described as a Texas music album,” Ags explains. “Texas-style country is my favourite, and it takes many forms. I wanted to celebrate them all.” For the Tex-Mex tracks, Ags taught himself to play bajo quinto, a traditional Tejano instrument. “I knew if I was gonna do it I had to do it right,” Ags says. “Wes McGhee (the legendary UK country artist who spent years playing in Austin) told me you need the bajo for an authentic sound. He should know as he was making records like this decades ago.” Ags pays tribute to McGhee on Siempre by covering his song “Half Forgotten Tunes.” The number fits nicely among the road odes and paths of uncertainty that traverse the album, drifting from loss to hope and back again.
Connolly is widely considered to be one of the best country artists ever to emerge from the UK. His popularity in the US has grown considerably since the release of Wrong Again, and he has also established himself in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden that value his traditional sound. Siempre which also features cover art by eminent designer Stephen Averill is the next step in his growth as an artist and as a figure in UK country music.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the standout track “Change My Mind,” which finds Connolly taking a cue from the Tejano playbook with a sound that feels closer to the Texas-Mexico border than to the pastoral grasslands of the UK. With this tune, Connolly embraces a tradition pioneered by artists like Doug Sahm and the Texas Tornados and Freddy Fender of mixing traditional Mexican music with Texas honky tonk and country. The result is a tune that feels like a welcome revival of a brief period in country music that is far too overlooked, with Connolly’s country crooning fusing with the accordion and bajo quinto as naturally as chips and queso. For many other artists trying to tap into a traditional sound, this would feel contrived and silly, but Connolly has once again proven that he is a quick study who is more than capable of honoring history.
Ags Connolly describes the inspiration behind the tune:
“In the last few years I’ve become interested in traditional Tex-Music and tried to learn more about it. Acts like the Texas Tornados adapted it to country with fun, seemingly simple sing-alongs, and ‘Change My Mind’ was my attempt to do something similar. I learned to play bajo quinto in order to bring as authentic a sound as possible to the song. Michael Guerra is the star on accordion however: this music just isn’t viable without that killer squeezebox.”