Album-closer “Follow The River” begins with the most familiar of sounds: Joey Burns’ shuffling acoustic guitar, John Convertino’s careful and inventive percussion, upright bass, a weeping pedal steel. A line or two creeps into the frame, “Shadows are calling, and I’ve been down all day/ The city’s asleep but my mind keeps running astray/ I dream of you in the falling rain.”
Then, Burn goes for the gut.
“Oooh, woo, oooh,” he coos in an empty chamber, simply, almost like an owl lost in the night, calling out for a companion.
“Oooh, woo, oooh.”
And that’s it. He goes back into verses and returns to that motif. He’s got you. And he goddamn knows it.
“Oooh, woo, oooh.”
The song runs for four minutes but could run for 10 for all I care. It’s ghostly and it’s packed with one of the myriad details that makes this collection just another one for the books.
Edge of the Sun is the darker, quirker cousin to Algiers, the legendary Tucson tribe’s debut on Anti- Records in 2012 after a lengthy run with Corey Rusk’s Quarterstick. A highly collaborative outing – guest vocals appear herein by Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case, Amparo Sanchez and others – it also twists and turns in more directions than Algiers. But it isn’t just dark. It’s reductive to paint it black From opener “Falling From The Sky,” a bouncy romp, as a matter of fact, you’d think it was a party record. (The acoustic “When The Angels Played,” on the other end of the production spectrum, flashes a similar optimism.) It’s more than that, though, too.
Again, the band is quick to note on Edge of the Sun, for every silver lining there is a cloud.
“The future’s built on bullets and rocks,” Burns laments on the aptly titled “Bullets & Rocks,” featuring Beam. The song echoes the musicians’ collaboration on In The Reins, in spirit if not in scope. The (appropriately) Friends of Dean Martinez-influenced “Beneath The City of Dreams” finds Burns murmuring “fortune bleeds out/lucky streaks can snap.” And so it goes. Shadows lurk throughout the record, in fact. What happened to the sun?!
While the band, at least in presentation, is clearly in the “new Calexico” mode of Algiers and Garden Ruin – read: slightly more pop leanings than rowhouse Tex-Mex experimentalism – the group also does flirt with a south of the border flavor and here they sound most comfortable in their own skin. The aforementioned “Beneath The City of Dreams” hits high notes when it brings in a full mariachi horn section, and “Moon Never Rises” introduces the group’s Latino flair to a lush Caribbean breeze. Drink it up!
“World Undone” is mysterious and powerful. “Cumbia de Donde” – an origin song that’s a descendant of “Guero Canelo” and just as powerful – will get people throwing their arms in the air and their hips into a frenzy. Instrumental “Coyoacan” is addictive – vintage Calexico (an exception on this disc) right off Hot Rail!
Why am I still writing? Have you downloaded this record yet? Why are you still reading?