It's quite astonishing that Calexico's 'Carried To Dust' hasn't made more headlines this year. It is almost as if they are just expected to carry on releasing superb albums and their quality of work is virtually taken for granted these days. Their whole sound on this album is a celebration of the fusion of traditional and contemporary South-Western American music, incorporating a beguiling mixture of styles, such as the Latin rhythms and Mariachi horns on the excellent opener, 'Victor Jara's Hands', a tribute to the Chilean poet & musician who was murdered in the early 70's, 'Bend To The Road', which filters a little jazz into the proceedings, 'Writer's Minor Holiday', a dusty pop-rock song which has echoes of Grant Lee Buffalo and the chilled-out soundscape of the album closer, 'Contention City'. Those songs are only examples of the richness of influence and musical texture you can expect from this release and each wonderful track has something unique to offer to your listening experience.
Apart from those mentioned above, other songs which stand out for me include the dark and beautiful 'Two Silver Trees', the impossibly grand 'The News About William' (which could have easily featured in a John Ford film), the delicious distorted guitar of 'Man Made Lake', the haunting vocals on the laid-back 'House Of Valparaiso', a duet with Sam Beam (Iron and Wine), and the beautiful, almost-soporific 'Red Blooms'. Add to those highlights the romantic Spanish drama of 'Inspiracion', the straight-forward, sweet country duet of 'Slowness', the mesmerising acoustic guitar picking of 'Falling From Sleeves' and what sounds like the theme to a Spaghetti Western in 'El Gatillo (Trigger Revisited)' and you have one of the most remarkable and essential albums of the year. There is everything to like about 'Carried To Dust' and it deserves all of the superlatives you can possibly think of. Highly recommended.
on 9 October 2008
`Carried to Dust` is Calexico's most mature work to date, arguably the best synthesis of their frontier atmospherics and Latin-inflected country songwriting. The follow-up to 2005's much-dismissed `Garden Ruin', `Carried to Dust' makes the `South-Western noir' tag stick better than any other Calexico album. It's a record of great dusky beauty, varied and unusual musicianship and haunting songs. More understated than their aknowledged masterpiece `Feast of Wire`, `Carried to Dust' may pass that benchmark in time with its flickering, insidious quality. Cinematic but subtle, whispery yet substantial, there are fewer straight-out brooding Enio Morricone instrumentals, only one blatant Tex-Mex jam. The album is largely song-orientated but, unlike Garden Ruin, deftly impressionistic, with ghostly electronic touches that recall Wilco's `Ghost is Born`, Bon Iver's `Emma, Forever Ago`, and the work of long-term collaborator Iron & Wine, aka Samuel Beam, who features here on the sublime `House Of Valparaiso'.
Despite working with a number of guest singers and musicians (also including Canadian singer Pieta Brown and Amparanoia's Amparo Sanchez) Joey Burns and John Convertino have been successful in qwelling the magpie-ish tendencies of previous albums, sustaining a coherent mood over a (thankfully) more concise 45 minutes. While it may not have the epic scope and more various thrills of `Feast of Wire', `Carried to Dust' is a more focused album - the sound of a band comfortable with their, um, sound, and the possibilities it presents. As much as I loved the border country schtick that made them famous, I always felt that band were doomed to pigeonholing and it is great to hear them pull off an album of songs without compromising their South-Western soul. Better still, `Carried to Dust''s moods are rarely prosaic - less readily associated with the default American landcapes of earlier albums.
Aside from the wonderful `House of Valparaiso', other album highlights include the glimmering oriental harps of `Two Silver Trees' or the polished, Chris Isaak noir of `Man Made Lake' - fuzzy guitars and minor key glockespiel conspiring towards a blissful dissonance. The seafarer's poem `The News About William' recalls Fleet Foxes' romantic folk, but what Joey Burns lacks as a singer compared to Robin Pecknold, Calexico compensate with a musical tapestry richer than that of their contemporaries. `Writer's Minor Holliday', with its backing vocal sighs from Adrienne DeNIke and swaggering rhythm section, echoes James Jackson Toth's fine solo debut `Waiting In Vain`. While `Slowness' is a hazy country duet between Burns and Pieta - with all the gorgeous steel pedal twang you could ever hope for - `Inspiracion' is skeletal Latin folk, Tom Waits at a Dia De Los Muertos procession. Enjoy!
on 29 June 2009
I have to say that vinyl edition of this Calexico album is of very high quality. I was a little bit sceptic when ordering, considering my previous experience with new vinyl arriving with scratches, dirt, and has audible hiss and pops although arrived new and unpacked. When this one arrives I was very pleased to see that it was clear, no visible dirt or fingertips on vinyl, just as it's suppose to be. Then, after playing it, I could fully enjoy clear vinyl sound at its finest. This prooves to be one of the best buys I have made among new vinyl editions.