Calexico Beams Border Radio From The 930 Club

Cap-it-al Radio: Joey Burns and John Convertino set up the pirate transmitter not one mile from the White House last night, and beamed their cross-border cultural mashup to a 1000 anxious fans.  The brilliant Carried To Dust, which ranks high on Tulip Frenzy’s office playlist, was explored almost in its entirety, though they dipped into their saddlebags to pull out treasures from Feast of Wire and the whole arid ouevre. These guys are brilliant musicians, and Burns is a really good singer — his voice runs patterns inside the wide-out routes covered by Gary Louris.  The highlight, of course, was the way their Fear-And-Whisky-era-Mekons-meets-Herb Alpert sensibility added a mild salsa spice to an otherwise alt.country bowl of chili.

When you think that these guys were carved more than a decade ago from a stray mound of Giant Sand, and that in those days, they hadn’t even added the Sergio Leone horns, it’s a wonder.  The mathematical precision of the two trumpets playing in unison conjures visions of a sunburned Johann Sebastian Bach, stumbling through the salt flats with a mescal buzz, conducting the horn section with his sunglasses askew.  I’ve never before witnessed a whistled solo, but these guys did it, and you could hear the horse being slapped on its rump while Zapata rode til dawn.  Andale!

Joey Burns alternated between a white Palomino of an electric guitar and his acoustic built to scale for a Mexican teenager, and John Convertino put on a seminar on how to use brushes and the snare with little regard for the tom toms.  “Two Silver Trees” was a little flatter than on the album, but “Writers Minor Holiday” was like the soundtrack to a Roberto Bolano novel.  You could see why so many musicians have hired them to be their studio band, could understand why half of the I’m Not There tracks were recorded with these guys underneath.  And yet when it came time for Calexico to take a star turn, to stand astride their rising career like a bandito on the final quarter mile ride to the saloon, they were plenty comfortable in the moonlight.

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