Since 2003's diversely excellent Feast of Wire, Joey Burns and John Convertino have settled on a stable Calexico line-up based on their touring band of German musicians Martin Wenk and Volker Zander, local Tucson accomplice Jacob Valenzuela, and former Lambchop pedal steel guitarist Paul Niehaus.
The effect is palpable right from the opening "Cruel", which is much rockier than their previous work, despite featuring a similar blend of piano, guitar and quizzical horn punctuation. Elsewhere, the basic folk- and country-rock settings of songs like "Bisbee Blue", "Nom de Plume" and "Lucky Dime" are embellished with customary Calexico textures of accordions, horns and chamberlin.
Another change is that most songs seem to be addressing contemporary political concerns, rather than depictions of mythopoeic Americana, with "Letter to Bowie Knife" confronting religious intolerance, and "All Systems Red" contemplating how "the chimes of freedom flash and fade". Especially impressive is "Yours and Mine", whose sketch of rural uncertainty serves as a potent metaphor for broader changes in the American body politic.
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