Calexico Find The Treasure In “Carried To Dust”

It’s a warm September evening and you’re driving straight thru from Canyonlands to Tucson. Over there in the eastern part of the sky, the moon’s beginning to rise above one of Monument Valley’s spires, maybe the East Mitten.  And of course, the only band you possibly could be playing on the 8 Track in your ’73 Camaro is Calexico.

If, last time around, you wondered what happened to the Mariachi brass, the Keenan-Wynn-in-a-Mexican-bar guitar, that’s because “Garden Ruin” was aimed smack dab in the wrong direction, towards Kansas. In other words, Jayhawks country.  But this time, Joey Burns doesn’t stray far from the saguaro, which by the way, recently got Federal protection, as should Calexico, just for being a national damn treasure.

“”Carried To Dust” is the best thing they’ve ever done, either for themselves, or the many friends they’ve backed up — Neko Case, Iron und Wine, just to name a few.  It’s a real contender for Tulip Frenzy’s album of the year.  Either 2008, the year in which it was released, or 1974, the year it feels like. Here’s why it qualifies: It’s perfect.  That’s a technical rock reviewer blogger term.  Perfect.

Makes you think of the kid in Blood Meridian — the book, not the band — with his boots covered in blood, underneath the evening redness in the West.  Makes you think of Blood Meridian — the band, not the book — with their boots covered in blood, playing on the stage in front of you.

Alternately gorgeous melodies, that spooky Tex-Mex guitar line underneath the brass, and John Convertino’s drumming holding everything together so delicately in this region where one wrong move means death from dehydration, rattlesnakes, bad hombres, you name it. And then there’s the stuff that stuns, the way the sunshine does when you’ve wandered off the trail and the Green River’s still way over there.  Plus, they’ve got Pieta Brown singing on “Slowness.”  Maybe enough said.  After all, in the desert West, there’s not a lot of talking. 

If Ed Abbey were still with us — and the world would be a better place for it: can you imagine how he would have howled at the Sarah Palin pick?  But we digress.  If Ed Abbey were still alive, these guys would be the house band at his Tucson beer bashes.  Yeah, they’re that good.

2 Responses to “Calexico Find The Treasure In “Carried To Dust””

  1. […] the real records are done.  This sounds like as coherent a single record as their last ‘un, the magnificent Carried To Dust.  Yes, artisanal music flows from the sandy regions, not just Brooklyn.  And given their absence […]

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