Calexico, Garden Ruin
Joey Burns and John Convertino celebrate 10 years together as Calexico on Garden Ruin by embracing the Southwestern twang that’s always come so naturally to them and also by leaving it in the dust. The duo, who got their start as Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand rhythm section and have since created a Tucson-based collective of eccentric talents around them, have often focused more on mood and feel than actual songs: their catalogue runs the gamut from Ennio Morricone–style soundtrackings to jazzy Latin experiments to rocky psychedelia. But after touring and recording with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, they’ve sharpened their songwriting skills not just in the expected alt-country vein but also in poppier directions that bring to mind British invasions, James Taylor folk, and Neil Young ballads. There are songs here about love gone badly, but Garden Ruin is also overtly political — a new twist for Calexico. “While you’re out there they’ll make the pitch/To rally the troops and make a huge contribution/To help push this through/Deep down you know it’s evil,” Burns sings on “Deep Down,” and “Nothing changes here and nothing improves/All say my friends who just want out” on “All Systems Red.” Burns and Convertino remain a formidable rhythm section for hire, but now they’re developing as a band.
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