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Shelly Lares gets sassy, brassy on retro-cumbia, ‘Salsipuedes’

"Little Miss Dynamite" releases a catchy, retro-sounding cumbia reminiscent of the big band sounds of the 1940s.

Shelly Lares performs at 39th annual Tejano Music Awards. Photo: Mariaelena Arocha

After 38 years in the music business, Tejano vocalist Shelly Lares still has surprises in store for her fans and her latest single is one of them.

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“Salsipuedes,” a catchy, retro-sounding cumbia, kicks off with an innovative intro that feels like you’ve just lowered the arm of a record player onto a vinyl album, and then, after an introduction from a male announcer, “Little Miss Dynamite” sings the lyrics at a rapid pace before the brass section leads into the song.

The refreshing, danceable cumbia recalls the big band sound of Glenn Miller and the harmonies of the Andrews Sisters, and Lares is a fan of big band and orchestra music, that style was what she wanted from the song that was originally recorded in 1937 by a Colombian big band.

“That’s the music that I love to listen to and I always wanted to implement it in my music in some way,” Lares said. “I’m not writing the music. It’s been around for generations, but I just wanted to re-introduce it to people in my way.”

“Salsipuedes,” which has been recorded by such artists as Celia Cruz, transports listeners to a time before television and the sound rings reminiscent of the late 1930s/1940s big band era and rightfully so. Lares is backed by a nine-piece orchestra, including trumpet, saxophones and even, clarinet.

“I knew, aside from your Glenn Millers and your Andrews Sisters, I knew that in the 30s and 40s there were Latin orchestras that still sounded big band but were in Spanish and that did cumbias,” she said. “So, believe me, it was very hard to find exactly what I wanted. And this song was originally recorded in 1937.”

Another surprising musical element of “Salsipuedes” is the lack of drums and guitar.

“There’s no drums at all,” Lares said. “I didn’t want to use any drums. There’s no guitar. What’s carrying it is the brass and there’s a nine-piece orchestra behind me.”  

Lares revealed the male announcer at the song’s start is radio, TV, and podcast host Mingo Mariano. She said recording even that short intro was an adventure as she had researched the announcers from the big band era who used their voices differently than modern-day disc jockeys do.

“You should have seen us,” Lares said. “It was hilarious. But I think that he nailed it.”

Staying true to the big band tradition, “Salsipuedes” includes background vocals from the horn players who, as Lares said they did in the past, would lean into the microphone to sing.

“Back in the day, that’s what they would do,” she said. “If you watch like Glenn Miller or Desi Arnaz, you know, those orchestras, you see the guys, they don’t have mics. One or two mics is picking them up. So, I wanted it to sound like they’re in the background like they’re just leaning into the mic. It’s really the horn players that are doing the back-up vocals, too.”

The Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame singer focuses on all the details in her work and this song is no exception.

“I’m all about details when I do certain things,” she said. “You know, hence the photo that I’m using to promote the song, hence the old-looking film, and the record scratch.”

In the promotional photo in black-and-white, Lares is dressed in a retro-style belted outfit with her hair coifed in a 1940s style.

Courtesy of ShellShock3 Records

Lares said a video is in the works for “Salsipuedes,” which she will produce herself at her home due to the pandemic.

“I’m doing the video myself here at home because if I’m not going into the studio, then, I sure as heck am not going anywhere to shoot a video,” Lares said. “I already have my concept.”

Lares said this latest single represents a distinctive sound that sets the tone for her upcoming album and fans can expect a lot more of the brass on the upcoming album.

“The whole album is not going to be 30s geared, but the instrumentation, as far as the fact that all of the songs are going to include brass like I used to do when I was a little girl,” Lares said.

She got her start with an orchestra and will return to those roots with the album, LMD82, which stands for her moniker, Little Miss Dynamite, with the “82” representing the year her music career began. The album is due out before the end of the year.

“That’s the band I started with as a little girl so I’ve had a high amount of respect for that instrumentation that’s incorporated into Tejano music,” Lares said. “So, I’m doing it. You’ll hear that in “Salsipuedes.” And then, you may hear me do something way across the other spectrum. That’s just the beauty of Tejano music. We can do that.”

Lares acknowledges that not all of her fans may appreciate the style of “Salsipuedes” but that she understands this and still puts her all into what she does.

“Even 38 years later, it still takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do what I do,” Lares said. “But I love it and it’s not what everybody’s playing, throwing out right now, but hey, that’s perfect.”

The single, “Salsipuedes,” is only available at shellylares.online, where “Shellians” can also check out the merchandise, including shirts, caps, koozies, and even music, more of which is on the way.

More news is coming soon from Lares only on Tejano Nation so check back often. Until then, enjoy the latest retro-cumbia from Little Miss Dynamite, “Salsipuedes.”

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