Listed: Calexico + Mean Red Spiders
Calexico (Joey Burns)
From his early days in Giant Sand to his modern days in Calexico (and Giant Sand, too), Joey Burns has always managed to evoke the haunting desolation and relaxation of the American Southwest. While his work in Giant Sand gives him the opportunity to flex his masters degree in double bass (as well as the opportunity to work with space cadet savant Howe Gelb), it's his work as the leader of Calexico that really allows Burns to showcase his skills. Calexico's albums have evolved in smootheness from their debut, Spoke, which caputred the grimy, rawness of cacti and cassette recorders, to 2000's Hot Rail which found them exploring higher fidelity, poppier songs, never losing the allure of the border (nor the mariachi horns). Calexico's most recent album, A Feast of Wire is Calexico (and Burns') most polished and epic work to date, both as a songwriter and as a musician. His guitar still plucks with familiar metallic twang, but his voice soars with a newfound confidence and range, as he continues to refine the unique and captivating sound that he created not so long ago. Calexico are currently on a tour of the U.S. to be followed in April by a two-month tour of Europe. A Feast of Wire is now available on Quarterstick Records.
1. Rainer The Farm, Alpache Lips, Worried Spirits and Nocturnes (Glitterhouse)- Rainer was born in East Berlin, moved to Chicago and then lived in Tucson, AZ. He was a good friend to us all and a master of sound with his dobro guitar and soulful voice. Unfortunately he passed away a number of years ago due to an inoperable brain tumor. There will be a re-release of a tribute album called the Inner Flame coming out soon with his best friend, executive producer, Howe Gelb. Features such artists as Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando, Giant Sand with Rainer, Victoria Williams and Vic Chesnutt. In additon there will be new artists' rendition of this very talented singer songwriter from the heart of Tucson.
2. Manu Chao - Clandestino (Virgin) - I gave this album to Victor Gastelum, the artist who designs the Calexico artwork, and he said, "this is Bob Dylan to me." Please go and check out all of the Mano Negro albums. Victor did and he loves them all.
3. Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch (Blue Note). - Born in Los Angeles, CA where he met Charles Mingus and they both moved out to NYC, tore it up, got knee deep in bebop jazz but then each took it out somewhere in their own way. This album hits deep and hard. Both outside and in the pocket of tonality, structure and grrove but at the same time existing on a whole differnent level of reality. He used to practice outside listening to the birds and incorporating their calls into his playing and way of looking at music. Great ensemble and of course sublime recording, performance and production.
4. Afro-Peruvian Classics - The Soul of Black Peru (Luaka Bop) - Compiled by David Byrne on Luaka bop records. Thanks to David Byrne i have been introduced to many Latin American and European artists hard to find, Tom Ze, Paulo Braganša, Susanna Baca...This compilation is one of the most intriguing recordings I have ever come across. It goes where I go. Hopefully one day it will accompany me to a trip to Peru to see the artists on the compilation in person. I have asked Mr. Byrne if he had the original full length albums from which these tracks are taken, but apparently the labels from Peru only sent him the individual tracks. Now I must find the lps. Please help if you know where I can find the original lps.
5. Microstoria - _snd (Thrill Jockey) - Two electronic wizards each kicking ass with their own projects, Oval and Mouse on Mars, here they get together to make ground breaking textures, sounds, and dynamic flow that amounts to a true work of art. Grossartig, stimmt. There is also a remix album of these pieces that is also worth checking out, titled "reprovisors" also on Chicago's monumental label, Thrill Jockey.
6. Wechsel Garland and Wunder - All titles. - Jorg Follert composes electronic and acoustic masterpieces, simple, heartfelt and innovative, a must for the here and now. Lives in Koln with his familia and is now starting to hit the road with a live ensemble as well as utilizing some of the electronic sounds from his newly purchased laptop. Interesting to see someone from the electronic music genre going towards using acoustic instruments in a live and recorded setting.
7. Nortec Collective - Frontier Life soundtrack album. -After releasing their groundbreaking premier album where techno beats meet traditonal Mexican instruments sampled from their native Tijuana barrio, it is great to hear them continuing down the path of change and bringing in more of the acoustic instruments into the mix as well as pushing the envelope of electronic blips, blops and ambient clusters. Fantastic to watch them on the screen as well, adapting and evolving their own unique vision at the club scene with beautiful images projected behind. The movie is fantastic as well which documents their collective scene with musicians and artists and writers and brew meisters opening up and giving insight into the inspiration behind it all, including the hot rod drag strip speedraces on the streets of Tijuana.
8. Vic Chesnutt - West of Rome (Texas Hotel) - I heard this and was taken into a completely unique world full of front porch delivery of the strange and beautiful poetic post from the master of Ameican songwriting himself. All of his albums are a must to own and listen to over and over again. Stories, characters, descriptions that only a genius could muster, and al this accompied with the most gorgeous instrumentation and melodies that stayed well planted inside the soul. As of late, I heard him do a song with his offshoot project, Brute, and then there are the beautiful collaboration with Nashville, TN collective, Lambchop, please check out their albums too, Nixon and Is a Woman.
9. De Kift - Koper - Loose, jazz inspired, down home, soulful band from the Netherlands. Heard about this group form our many travels to Europe over the but have yet to see them play live. I hear they are amazing. I can't wait to see them or collaborate with them if possible. Their albums are all hand made and amazing! Great recordings, lyrics, instrumentation, and overall feel. Like going to a party in someone's living room. Welcome home.
10. Dominique A - Le Detour (Labels) - Massive compilation of this French singer songwriter's whole career from the past decade. Innovative, intricately detailed but minimal and hits the mark of perfection at every turn. He recently just completed a solo tour with loops and effects on vocals and guitar, that I heard was one of the best european concerts of the year. Where will he go next? I invited him to Tucson, AZ where he could have his own bicycle, house in the barrio viejo close to downtown and wavelab studio full of strange guitars and 70's keyboards, not to mention being in the vacinity of the best Mexican food on the planet. We all hope he drops by.
11. Smog - Red Apple Falls (Drag City) - Great, great singer songwriter from the States. I love all of his albums. This is one of my favourites, I love the instrumentation, performance and delivery of his dry, twisted vocals. His world is dark, true, and wide. Buy all of his albums.
12. Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime (SST) - The best band in the world from San Pedro, CA that unfortunately lost their lead singer, guitarist in an automobile accident in the mid 1980's in Arizona. D. Boon will forever be remembered for his lyrical potency, super charged guitar playing and heart like a buddha on the docks of punk fueled social and political consciousness for all humanity. Mike Watt and George Hurley continue on the path of righteousness in sonics with playing in fIREHOSE with Ed from Ohio, and Nels Cline trio, Stooges Project with J Mascis and the Asheton brothers, Mike Watt is set to record new songs with his trio from San Pedro, CA and release them later this year. Calexico and Mariachi Luz de Luna has the pleasure and honor of meeting and playing with Mike Watt in Rennes, France at last year's Trans Musicale Festival doing a cover of the Minutemen's "Corona" which made it the gig of the year in my book.
13. Anthology of Mexican Sones (Corason) - Compilation with three disc set with gorgeous book, 1985. Amazing field recordings from all the regions of Mexico's vast and exotic musical background. My favourite songs are from the Costa Chica region where the vocals are harmonized in a unique range and timbre like the rendition of the song, "La Sanmarquena", that hit the soul and heart all at once in a plaintive but potent manner. These recordings are rough but at the same time give you an honest look into the how and where the spirit of these traditional songs are born.
14. Erik Satie - The early piano works performed by Reinbert De Leeuw (Phillips Classics) - These chords and melodies haunt and float to the core of jazz, classical and turn of the century directions in mind, music, and art. This performance by Leeuw is fantastic.
15. Dirty Three - She Has No Strings Apollo (Touch and Go) - The Dirty Three must be felt in order to hear the low rumble that knocks down all windows and doors inside. Go see them live. they will be touring this year on their new release, and take a good friend, grab a comfortable seat, a few drinks and allow the experience to wash over like a fine blanket of sun setting clouds on an October late afternoon. They continue to break down the barriers of indie rock, folk, and jazz inspired improvisations. Mick Turner, Warren Ellis and Jim White are all masters on their own instruments and work well as a one breathing voice that spells out the flavor of robust, hearty, dripping with inspiration from the trenches of a full life itself...how would you describe it ?....d i r t y.
16. Fred is Dead - Greatest Hits Haus Musik genius Wolfgang Petters strikes it again, a perfect snapshot, unfortunately the last album from this German ensemble. Looking forward to see where he and the others lead us musically.
Other nominations: Ethiopique series, Richard Buckner Devotion and Doubt and The Hill, Neko Case Blacklisted, Grandaddy's new album, or Sophtware Slump, Latin Playboys first album and Dose as well.
Mean Red Spiders
Canadian psych band Mean Red Spiders came together in 1993 in Toronto, Canada. After a series of lineup changes, the group recorded and released their debut album Places You Call Home in 1998 and followed that effort with the full-length LP Starsandsons in 2000. Their most recent album, Still Life Fast Moving found them with yet another lineup change and a noticably stripped-down, refined sound. All three of their albums are currently available on Teenage USA records (in Canada), and Still Life... is also available on Clairecords in the U.S.
1. A Tribe Called Quest - Beats, Rhymes and Life (Jive) - Fourth solid album from my Native Tongues favourites. Midnight Marauders may be my favourite hip hop album of all time but this one doesn't fall far behind. Tribe have released three double albums featuring source material that they've sampled. They use a track called "Dirty Little Bossa Nova" by The Howard Roberts Quartet for the song "Jam" - makes me long for a Friday afternoon in the middle of June!
2. Burning Spear - Spear Burning (Pressure) - Four sides of Winston Rodney's vision; early singles originally released on his own record label and compiled here. The dub versions are choice! The double vinyl features a beautiful gatefold sleeve with photographs and text. I witnessed the living legend a few years ago playing two nights in Toronto...if he comes to your town DO NOT MISS HIM!
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival - S/T (Fantasy) - Excellent debut by the Bayou brothers; dazzling cover of "I Put A Spell On You". Honest, simple, and classically produced. John Fogerty comes into his own as a songwriter and the extended jams suggest they may have been listening to the Velvet Underground at The Fillmore...or was that just me dreaming?
4. Miles Davis - Filles de Kilimanjaro (Columbia) - Last of the great Miles Davis Quintet records - a lyrical/rhythmic mood masterpiece. Miles waxes poetic about a few of the special ladies in his life. Tony Williams drums with propulsive agility and grace. It's a 'rebirth' of sorts for Hancock who will soon explore universal fusion. Miles follows this album with the brilliantly meditative In a Silent Way.
5. The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet (London) - Last Stones record to feature Brian Jones; a GREAT blues record. "Jigsaw Puzzle" is the standout - a psychedelic classic. "Street Fighting Man" gets me groovin' every time. If only Keef would always play this way! This album couples very nicely with Exile On Main Street. Greg from Mean Red Spiders got me hooked on it while we were on the road.
6. Stereolab - Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements (Elektra) - Mary Hansen's first full-length with the groop. Sonically it's their White Light White Heat; much of the album buries the recording levels in the red. Dynamic, engaging, emotive and just a bit menacing. "Jenny Ondioline" is the EPIC reincarnation of Neu's "Halogalo". The band is fresh and loose! This is still my favourite Stereolab record.
7. The Stranglers - (The Gospel According To) The Meninblack - Heroin addiction reportedly coloured this futuristic mining expedition. Hugh, J.J., Dave and Jet experiment freely in the studio, creating a very new wave-sounding record. Even in their darkest moments you can still dance to the music - and their song writing only matures with this effort. They could be Devo or Wire or The Residents but they're still 100% Stranglers.
8. Studio One Scorcher: Instrumentals (Soul Jazz) - I can't stop playing this fantastic compilation from the good folks at Soul Jazz Records. Herein please find some of the catchiest and most memorable ska/disco jams your ears will ever feast upon. Jackie Mittoo and his Skatalites featured in their prime. This is the album you want to play at your party...it'll make you move!
9. Upsetters - Blackboard Jungle Dub (Clock Tower) - My favourite dub album of all time; finally found a copy in NY last year...Scratch is at the height of his powers here, providing a trippy mix on one channel while King Tubby works his magic on the other. Imagine these two pillars of dub combined! All tracks are stellar; Marley's "Kaya" is beautifully reworked.
10. Stevie Wonder - Greatest Hits, Volume 1 (Motown) - Ladies and gentlemen...once again, The Funk Brothers! After seeing the film Standing In the Shadows of Motown I could not contain my emotions. There are too many recordings to mention here but Stevie's stuff is way up there. "Uptight" and "I Was Made To Love Her" are two of the greatest songs EVER! (don't forget The Beach Boys' version of the latter on Wild Honey)
By Dusted Magazine