Calexico – Garden Ruin

Calexico have cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

Last year's successful collaboration with folk tunesmith Iron and Wine appears to have encouraged Arizona's Calexico to cast aside their familiar mariachi brass and pedal steel atmospherics in favour of a more straightforward, song-based approach on fifth album Garden Ruin.

The Morricone-influenced instrumental epics of earlier recordings have been replaced by melodic, jangly country-rock numbers such as opener "Cruel", together with a sizeable dose of electric guitar on heavier tracks like "Letter To Bowie Knife".

Only on "Roka (Danza De La Muerte)", featuring Andalucian singer Ampara Sanchez, and the Gotan Project-style modern tango of "Nom De Plume" are Calexico's Latin inflections allowed to take a front seat. Elsewhere, while their trademark violins, trumpets and shuffling percussion do flit unobtrusively in and out of the mix throughout, the band's variety of textures and moods has been significantly pared down in search of a more accessible but ultimately less interesting sound. One could argue that thislack of variety hasbeen replaced by a stronger set of songs than their earlier efforts.

Longer term listening leads to greater enjoyment and rewards.

Beautiful matt gatefold cover with lyrics printed within and extra artwork on the inner sleeve also. The packaging is a work of art in itself. Decent weight vinyl and well pressed. And the usual very good Calexico sound. Possibly a bit clinical but deep and well rounded.

Josh Ritter – The Historical conquests of

Over the past several years Josh Ritter, a native of Idaho has made quite a reputation for himself in Ireland. A regular tourer he combines a great grasp of appealing music with a laidback appealing personality, onstage and off.

With beautiful lyrics and usually hushed tones he's grown and grown a fanbase and has been accepted as a native here.

This album, his first on vinyl, is a bit of a change from his previous more folk oriented releases. There are many out and out pop moments on this. Seventies pop. Its entirely engaging and even euphoric at times. It really sounds like Josh is living the life we all want to lead.

Arrangements are almost simple and straightforward. The melody is generally regular and with just enough twists, or flourishes to keep things interesting.
Choruses are big, bright and breezy. The wonderful Right Moves being such an example. Complete with
the Great North Sound Society Orchestra providing brass backing.

More simple singer/songwriter introspectives are not forgotten. Just Josh and his guitar but his lyrics always draw you in and keep you interested. Josh's own voice is an appealing if not impressive tenor.

But the belters are where its at and there's plenty of them. Probably unusual for Ritter this is a record to turn up loud and bounce around the room to.

marvellous stuff.

Simple packaging and heavyweight value. The vinyl comes with a cd which gets it a bonus point but the sound quality is not great and basically sounds like its being played through a transistor radio. Is this deliberate?

Duffy – Rockferry

And so, after Amy here they come.

Duffy is one of the latest young things to come along, singing her heart out. Just as if the 70’s 80’s and 90’s never happened. This is apparently due to her paren’t record collection. The fact that it is released is probably more due to the success of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album.

While that album was heralded, and made famous by, the (annoying)single Rehab, Duffy’s calling card is Fever. A virtual homage to Aretha Franklin. A gutsy belter, funky enough to shake both your head and booty to. You’ll be singing along to this one and I can’t see it being quite as annoying as the aforementioned Rehab. Probably who I find it most similar to is a 60’s band called The Cake who sang some songs by┬áJack Nitzsche.

All the right names are on board here. Bernard Butler helps out on guitars, production and songwriting. He also helps with the string arrangements but luckily seems to stop short of singing. fot that he (or err she, Duffy) gets in his old partner the magnificent David McAlmont on backing vocals.

The above names will give you some idea of what this record is about. There is an appealing melodrama throughout much of the record with crescendos of sweeping strings and Duffy’s effective vocals. Other tracks are straightforward soulful and lightly funky. No dirty grit here but enough to appeal to the mainstream public.

Production is pretty much Motown wall of sound. You have this great impressive wave of music coming at you. You’re not so much expected to concentrate on the intricate details as get carried away in the waves of emotion and music.

Voicewise and musically this record has often been compared to Dusty Springfield. This is an obvious comparison, and err an apt one. Tunes are all solid and memorable.

I love the closer, Distant Dreamer, an emotional gripper that builds and builds for a fitting finale.

The NME don’t like it because its not cool enough, or modern enough. Or something.

Most enjoyable.

Standard packaging in general. Simple inner sleever with credit in a thick enough outer picture sleeve. Pressing not bad and heavy enough. Sound quality is deliberately retro.