A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
August 25, 2006
Here’s a batch of CDs released in recent weeks (well, in some cases, recent months) by New Mexico musicians we know and love.
* Summertime by Jono Manson. Jono’s back! After lying low for a few years, Manson seems to be gigging everywhere. And he has a new album, his first solo record since 2001’s Under the Stone.
Summertime is pure white soul, featuring a funky, horny (great sax and trumpet) band.
Several cuts stand out. “Jr. Walker Drove the Bus” is an upbeat tribute to the “Shotgun” man, utilizing a passage of Walker’s “What Does It Take (to Win Your Love).” “Ends of the Earth” is a soul ballad that would make Robert Cray jealous and features a cool organ solo. Manson gets almost swampy on “Red Wine in the Afternoon,” with a tasty slide guitar and mandolin.
His humor shows through on the rocking “Please Stop Playing That Didgeridoo.” His irritation with the hippie didj player grows as the song progresses. “If you don’t stop, I’m going tok it in two,” Manson growls. “You ain’t no aborigine/in your tie-dye T. ... Take your hacky sack ’cause them’s the only balls you’ve got.”
*The Cherry Tempo by The Cherry Tempo. Singer/songwriter Javier Romero has been making music around here since he was old enough to step up to a microphone. He was in Mistletoe a few years ago, and like that group, The Cherry Tempo plays brash but always melodic indie pop. The band’s Web site mentions a song called “Sunny Day Beatlestate.” That doesn’t appear on this CD, at least under that title, but that could almost sum up the sound here — a cross between classic emo and the Fab Four, sometimes mixed with new-wavey synths. (The opening strains of “Treble Is High” take you in a time machine to 1982, while the untitled “secret bonus” track sounds like Wall of Voodoo on angel dust.)
My favorite here is “City of Squares.” Add about 17 singers and some robes, and you’ve got what could be one of the best Polyphonic Spree songs ever. I’m fond of the sentimental “Of Ghosts, Keepsakes,” an uncharacteristically soft ’n’ purdy number.
*Third Floor Serenade by Sol Fire. This is the second album by this band, fronted by brothers Buddy and Amado Abeyta. You could call this a second-generation Santa Fe band since the Abeytas’ dad, Chris Abeyta, is a founder of the longtime local favorite Lumbre del Sol. (Sol Fire does Chris’ song “Universal Flight” here.)
Like the band’s friends The Cherry Tempo, Sol Fire has a modern-rock sound. However, it has a more distinctive Chicano-rock sound. You can hear a little Carlos Santana in some of the guitar solos.
And like Santa Fe bands going back to the ’50s and ’60s, these guys know how to rock (“Save It for Next Time” proves this), but they’ve got a true feel for soulful, romantic ballads. (A few years ago in an interview, Dave Rarick of the classic ’60s Santa Fe group The Morfomen told me, “We played Rolling Stones songs and everything, and they were good to dance to. But mf the Santa Fe groups were known for the romantic ballads. ‘The End of the Highway’ was like that, ‘When You Were Mine’ was. Maybe that’s part of the Spanish influence. We liked the romantic stuff.”)
This really shows on “We Don’t Have That Much Time Together,” a mainly acoustic, Terence Trent D’Arby-penned song featuring a pop-flamenco guitar.
*Corridos y Mas by Steve Chavez. I don’t speak Spanish, so I’m a real dilettante (or dill-something) when it comes to music like this, but I have to say I love most of the songs on this album by Española singer Chavez. This is more traditional music than the other stuff I’ve heard by him. The best songs here are upbeat corridos.
As Chavez explains in a press release, “A corrido is basically a song written in story form (which) documents a historical event, be it love, war, or even the death of a popular or famous individual.”
Even with my linguistic handicap, there’s plenty to appreciate. Songs like “Juan Charrasqueado” and “Rosita Alviare just good, get-down music I associate with Fiesta. It’s danceable and hummable, and Chavez has a smooth, sincere voice that deserves to be heard in more homes.
*Ride the Rain by Raising Cane. If there’s such a thing as a bluegrass corrido, Aimee Hoyt’s found it on her song “Inman’s Liquid Gold,” a tune about bootlegging and murder in southwestern New Mexico.
Inman murdered a neighbor during Prohibition but got out of jail free, reportedly because the governor was one of his customers. That wouldn’t happen these days. Inman would go to prison, but politicians would donate his campaign contributions to charity.
*The Music of Le Masque by Christopher B. McCarty. This is a collection of country-rock, folkish, soft-rock tunes by songwriter Chris, who is probably most famous for co-writing several Steve Miller tunes. A couple of those are here, including a tropical version of “Swingtown,” which was a hit for Miller back in the '70s.
The best title is undoubtedly “Vincent Van Gogh With a Gun.” It’s actually a pretty tune. But my favorite is the opener, “Glimpse of God,” a Dire Straits-like rocker.
* Trilobite by Trilobite. This is a folky little group led by Albuquerque singer/songwriter Mark Lewis, backed by singer Michelle Collins (who sometimes reminds me of Victoria Williams, sometimes of ThaMuseMeant’s Aimee Curl).
The mood here is often dark and mysterious. This feel is aided by the plethora of strings. Dave Gutierrez plays mandolin, banjo, and pedal steel, while some tracks have violin (Hilary Schacht), viola (Alicia Ultan), and cello (Sasha Perrin, who also plays pump organ).
My favorite track on this album is also one of my favorite songs on another New Mexico album, Cactusman Versus the Blue Demon by Boris & The Saltlicks. Lewis wrote “The Caves of Burgundy” — a song about a man being lured into the realm of faery (or maybe it’s just hell) by a supernatural beauty following a car wreck
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