Ruben Moreno’s debut BashTown Music single, “Whole Lotta Love,” showcases the artist’s soul-inflected vocals, kinetic accordion and charismatic aura. In the accompanying party-flavored video, Ruben and the band cook up a blend of zydeco, R&B and rock ingredients into one deliciously funky gumbo for a club full of dancers.
Although “Whole Lotta Love” is his first release with BashTown, Houston-based artist Ruben Moreno grew up immersed in music. Similar to New Orleans, Houston also has wards. “I grew up in the second ward,” says Ruben. “A native American, Mexican, South and Central American community; a lot of brown people. The Mexican side of my family plays accordion. In the fifth ward I’d hang with Creole folks and my grandfather was Creole. As I got older, well-known zydeco artists took me under their wings. I was at all of Houston’s original juke joints from the time I was 12 and 13 years old. I wasn’t drinking -- I was playing.
Beginning as a percussionist at age seven with local conjunto bands, Ruben later learned the zydeco trademark instrument, the rubboard -- an unframed ribbed metal washboard hung around the neck and played with metal fingerpicks, and also the accordion. “I realized that not only did I have an opportunity to perform with these bands, but I developed a consciousness of who I am and understanding that I was part of both cultures. Now what could I do to bring it together? It was all that accordion music I fell in love with.”
Relocating to the San Francisco Bay area, Ruben came under the tutelage of zydeco great Andre Thierry, a Grammy-nominated artist who produced Ruben’s debut full-length, Por Ti Volare (For You I Will Fly) that established Ruben as a solo artist. In concert, Ruben has performed extensively on both east coast and west coast tours, plus shows in Canada, France, and Germany. In 2014, he released his second collection, Complique that added urban, pop and hip-hop influences to his roots-based sound.
In 2015 Ruben joined with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, Andre Thierry and other musicians in the cross-cultural project “Shades of Brown” for Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy. He plans to expand on the concept with what he calls “The Brown Boy Project,” as he notes, “…fusing Latin with Creole and zydeco because there are so many similarities.”
For the uninitiated, the track “Whole Lotta Love” is a sparkling introduction to a captivating new artist. Rooted in tradition, the artistry of Ruben Moreno is at once historic and contemporary, as he updates the legacy of zydeco with flourishes of funk, R&B, rock and hip-hop. As the Creole folks might proclaim “Laissez les bon temps rouler.” In Spanish, “Deja que los buenos tiempos pasen,” or translated into English, “Let the good times roll.” With the music of Ruben Moreno there is one inclusive language: The sound of joy.