93XRT Welcomes Calexico:
They call New Orleans a melting pot. When one thinks about it like that, it’s hardly surprising that this is where Calexico reconvened to record their seventh full-length album, Algiers. Joey Burns and John Convertino have long called upon an extended range of musical influences, blending them together so distinctly that the results have almost become a genre of their own. Nonetheless, the choice of New Orleans may still come as a surprise to many. Calexico are, after all, associated with a style that their name – borrowed from a small town of less than 40,000 inhabitants on the border between the US and Mexico – has always defined with an unusual precision. Their work has spoken of dusty deserts and the loners that inhabit them, mixing America’s country music heritage with that of a Latin persuasion. In other words, it isn’t obviously affiliated with the sounds that have made New Orleans one of the premiere tourist destinations in the US. What’s emerged as a result of this decision, however, is arguably the most exciting and accessible record Calexico have made. It’s a fact emphasized by the band’s decision to name the album in tribute to the neighbourhood where they worked: Algiers.
The feel of Algiers is recognizably classic Calexico, but their style been revitalized and reborn by the experience of recording in the city. Its influence isn't necessarily sonically evident, but there’s a strange, powerful connection to the sounds that have always coloured their own, influences Burns has previously identified as including “Portugese fado, 50’s jazz, gypsy or romani music and its offshoots, 60’s surf and twang from Link Wray to country’s Duane Eddy, the spaghetti western epics of Ennio Morricone and dark indie rock singer songwriters.”
The choice of New Orleans was largely down to long time collaborator, producer Craig Schumacher. “We were talking about wanting to go to Europe and record,” Burns says, “but we never get our shit together in time to make plans that far in advance. So where do you go that is nearby and has a European feel? New Orleans. The place is strong and bold, soulful to the core, but surrounded by a sea of darkness. There is a heaviness there that I like, and in some way Tucson shares a similar vibe. There's something creepy and old on the edge of town and written throughout the town's histories. Those kinds of aesthetics help with the writing and chipping away at the abstract shapes and colours.”So, some 22 years since they first met, Joey Burns and John Convertino – joined as ever by a cast of musicians from across the globe – add yet another successful musical adventure to their list. You might think that, after six studio albums and a suitcase of tour CDs, collaborations with the likes of Victoria Williams, Iron & Wine, Willie Nelson, Roger McGuinn and Nancy Sinatra, and soundtrack work to boot, there wasn’t much more they could achieve. But you’d be wrong. New Orleans clearly inspired them to make an album that sees them stretch out more effortlessly than ever but, while you can take the men out of Calexico, but you can’t take Calexico out of the men.