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Flyinshoes Review

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Presenting Davy Cowan's "Little Town" our 2017  Christmas Song

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Rob Ellen

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Howe Gelb, maverick artist and godfather to a desert strand of alt-country epitomised by his own band, Giant Sand, and the better known Calexico, continues his long habit of collaborations by meeting up here with a Spanish flamenco band fronted by master guitarist Raimundo Amador. Having only ever heard snippets of Howe Gelb's work and being completely ignorant of flamenco tradition, I have to take this record at face value and can't offer any insight as to how far either side in this project have departed from their traditional metier.

        To a fair degree, it honestly sounds like they're each doing their own thing and letting the collective sound come together where it may. There is an inherent fit to be found, I feel, in that Howe Gelb's desert music has a strong sense of being located in the Mexican borderlands where Spanish is frequently spoken and acoustic guitar-based music is where it's at. That Mexican guitar style has an accent that relates closely to these flamenco players - but it's not the same thing, and it's many centuries since their forebears shared a homeland. Besides, Howe Gelb's quite inclined to chuck a fuzzy, aggresive electric guitar into the mix, which stirs things up a bit.

        It's Howe Gelb's songs being performed here and he has a very idiosyncratic approach to songwriting, from the banal, wry observations of  4 Door Maverick to story songs - myth-making songs, really - taking  you into strange territory that always seems more cinematic than real.  Every now and then he gives you a hint of the pop song he could write if he felt like it before veering off again down his own particular trail. He tends to murmur and whisper his lines in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Clint Eastwood's Stranger character in those early westerns: you'd better listen to me, but I'm not going to make it easy for you, he's saying. His style is definitively American - individualist, laconic, cynical - and this is the most obvious of the many contrasts highlighted in this collaboration, because his gypsy band make music that is cultivated, beautiful and communal in spirit - music for a social gathering.

         There are songs here when you wouldn't know there was a flamenco band performing because there's nothing remotely Spanish or dance-oriented about the music. One song in particular, Saint Conformity, puts me in mind of The Mothers Of Invention more than anything, whilst One Diner Town has a straightforward, unornamented guitar line that is cut across by a disonant piano as Howe murmurs his disturbing tale of a disturbed mind. All in all, it's difficult to know what to make of this project, to understand what they were trying to achieve. The best, most attractive moments come when Raimundo Amador is in full flow, conjuring astonishingly rich and fluid sounds from his instrument, but the enduring fascination comes from the sense of two cultures turning a light on each other, the better to understand what they're each up to.

John Davy

 

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www.euroamericanachart.eu

1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
Wild and Reckless
Lojinx
JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
25 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
Blue Hens Music
 
 
Hardpan
24 pts.
Hardpan
Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
19 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
MW
25
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
FS

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