Album Review: Calexico – Carried To Dust

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The town of Calexico, California prides themselves on being the perfect blend of American Culture and Mexican Culture. In fact, the name Calexico comes from the Cal in California and the -exico of Mexico, put together. And much like the town they named themselves after, Tuscan’s own Calexico is caught between two sounds. Somewhere between the L.A indie pop scene and Mexico’s timeless mariachi is where they call home.

After four successful albums, the Joey Burns and John Convertino led group took the left turn at Albuquerque and made 2006’s Garden Ruin. It was a stark contrast to the brilliantly named “indie-mariachi” that made Calexico famous. Despite garnering critical acclaim, fans of the group felt that the band had abandoned its roots and were opting for a more mainstream sound, like that of a Wilco or a My Morning Jacket. Luckily, the band’s latest effort, Carried To Dust, is an attempt to return to the style that made the group so unique. Sadly, the two seemed to stay a bit too long in LA and the album suffers as a result.

Carried To Dust starts with a lot of promise, and with an ode to the late poet/song-writer/political activist, Victor Jara. “Victor Jara’s Hands” is vintage Calexico with mariachi horns and the guest vocals of Jairo Zavala, of Depedro, only add to track. “Two Silver Tree’s” shows the best this indie unit has to offer. Horned and stringed instruments blend together with Convertino rhythmic drumming to form a near flawless effort that shows off the charm which made Calexico so charming to many.

The most intriguing thing that comes out of this album is the number of guest appearances. Not because Calexico doesn’t normally do guest appearances, it’s just the albums best tracks for the most part are done without the help of other musicians.  Sam Beam’s (of Iron & Wine) effort on “House of Valparaiso” is a huge disappointment, at least when put against the work the two groups have done together. This album also suffers from overproduction. There isn’t the same urgency as past efforts and the few moments of experimentalism that made this band so famous is nearly obsolete.

This is not a bad album by any means; however, it’s clear that Calexico has lost something in the translation (pun intended). As a whole, Carried To Dust has lost a lot of the passion that made the band so endearing to many. What’s left is a slightly above average album that has a few outstanding moments, but the rest could be viewed as filler that doesn’t stand out like past material.

Check Out:
“Two Silver Trees”