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Carried to Dust

25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 9, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

There's always been intrigue and adventure at the heart of Calexico. Joey Burns and John Convertino have constantly imbued their music with an unparalleled sense of drama, calling upon the myths and iconography of the American West and its Spanish speaking neighbor Mexico. "Carried To Dust" represents the pinnacle of their achievement, a thrilling and moving journey through a landscape that draws upon the modern world as much as it does the decayed reminders of times past, stumbling upon unexpected delights whilst always moving forward with a pioneering sense of purpose.

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It's impossible to experience any undue tension or stress while listening to Calexico. Despite time spent in Los Angeles, where they met, founders Joey Burns (vocals, guitar) and John Convertino (drums) produce sounds more reflective of their sun-blasted Tucson environs. Since spinning off Howe Gelb's indomitable Giant Sand and forming their own collective, their songs have always been too hushed, too much like lullabies not to soothe the most savage breast, and Carried to Dust marks their most relaxed and confident effort to date. Burns and Convertino pursue such a mellow, yet expansive muse that they blur the lines between indie rock, imaginary soundtracks, and ethnographic explorations. As with the work of Douglas McCombs (Tortoise) and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), who contribute to their sixth long-player, this isn't such a bad thing (the duo previously collaborated with Beam on 2005’s In the Reins). What they lack in edge or, God forbid, trendiness, the band makes up for in beauty and creativity. Note, for instance, the cascading keyboard figures of "Two Silver Trees" or the way toy piano and chimes entwine on lovely closer "Contention City." Calexico don't make music to get the party started, but to bring it to a warm and satisfying conclusion. --Kathleen C. Fennessy


It's probable that many still think of Tucson, Arizona's Calexico as an indie-rock band dabbling in the fields of country and mariachi music, but so skilfully played and richly textured is Carried to Dust, the sixth album from Joey Burns and John Convertino's long-running collective, that it feels churlish to think of them as anything less than the real deal. Uniting players including Iron and Wine's Sam Beam, Tortoise's Doug McCombs, Spanish singer-guitarist Amparo Sanchez and Iowa songwriter Pieta Brown, Carried to Dust forsakes the rockier, somewhat conventional tones of previous album Garden Ruin, harking back instead to 2003's career high watermark Feast of Wire. While diverse in genre, crucially it doesn't feel so, Calexico lassoing myriad styles and making them their own. So whether drifting the plains in true mariachi style (“Insparacion"), playing serene, lap-steel country (“Hole in Your Hand (Bend in the Road)"), or whipping up a political storm on “Victor Jara's Hand"--tribute to an activist unjustly killed by the Chilean state police in the '70s––Carried to Dust feels both adventurous and comfortable on whatever turf it chooses to walk. ––Louis Pattison

1. Victor Jara's Hands
2. Two Silver Trees
3. The News About William
4. Sarabande In Pencil Form
5. Writer's Minor Holiday
6. Man Made Lake
7. Inspiracion
8. House of Valparaiso
9. Slowness
10. Bend to the Road
11. El Gatillo (Trigger Revisited)
12. Fractured Air (Tornado Watch)
13. Falling From Sleeves
14. Red Blooms
15. Contention City

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 9, 2008)
  • Original Release Date: January 1, 2008
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Quarterstick
  • ASIN: B001CVCB9O
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,218 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Trillian on September 20, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'll admit I have been a huge Calexico fan for awhile, but each of their albums have had a few songs that just didn't do it for me. Not so with this album, which could alternately be titled "The Best Elements Of Calexico From Start To Finish." If you're looking for Calexico's trademark mariachi-style trumpets married to a modern techno beat, you'll find it in "Inspiracion" and the guitar-heavy "El Gatillo". "Two Silver Trees" is a superb effort that combines some seriously seductive hooks with the softer side of Joey Burns' amazing vocals. Like many people, I'm eagerly waiting for another Iron & Wine/Calexico collaboration, so I was delighted to listen to Sam Beam's guest contribution on the exquisitely gorgeous "House of Valparaiso". As a whole I think Calexico take a step or two toward the pop side of things, but let me stress that this is not a bad thing in the least. ALL of the classic elements of the band are here in spades - the creative instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics, and wonderful vocal arrangements. This makes for one heck of a fine album, and an extremely enjoyable one at that.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By threestarsmash on September 13, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The heart of Calexico, Arizonians Joey Burns and John Convertino, have always played music which is difficult to nail down into one category or another. Like the border town from which their name originates, Calexico's music is a mish-mash blend of California and Mexico, Western and spaghetti western, good and evil, grounded and uprooted.

Some might get the idea that the "Mexican" influence means Calexico's music sounds like a failed Taco Bell ad campaign, colorful tacos and sombreros mandatory. They'd be dead wrong. It's more like the self-assured, world-wise output of Chile's storied and excellent Inti-Illimani---based upon certain elements, but ever steering the ship into uncharted waters---or the alternative soundtrack to Tarantino's awful Kill Bill movies (no offense to Morricone intended).

Perhaps the defining Calexican moment was singing and dancing along with their "Sunken Waltz" (from 2003's near-flawless Feast of Wire), a modern folk-pop fairytale about a maverick who builds a machine to sink California into the Pacific Ocean. Carried to Dust's opening cut, "Victor Jara's Hands," crackles with the same experimental folk energy. Expert Latin horns and drumwork infuse it with an elusive mystique uncommon to folk Americana. Elsewhere, slower cuts like "Falling From Sleeves" or the closing "Contention City" deliver more pastoral vibes.

The album is a "return to non-form" of sorts, as
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William P. Spicer on September 12, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Easily in the top 10 of '08. Burns and Convertino are at the top of their collective game with this batch of tunes. As another reviewer stated- seeing this band perform live is quite the musical treat. Next to the word "eclectic" in the dictionary stands a picture of the band Calexico. You spaghetti western? You got it. You want southern rock? Sure. You want pop? No problem.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 22, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Let me state upfront that I am a late-comer to the Calexico fanfest. This is the 8th album in the band's rich history since 1997 but it's the first album I've discovered after hearing/reading so much critical acclaim on this that I just had to seek this out, and you can rest assured it won't be the last album I'll be listening to from these guys.

"Carried To Dust" (15 tracks; 45 min.) brings a mesmerizing mix of indie-folk-electric-country-Latin sounds, and even these descriptions don't do full justice to the band. The album consists of a slew of short (in the 3-4 min. range) songs (with 2 short instrumentals) that make their point, and then the band moves on. It all results in a dreamy state of affairs that I just can't put down. There are of course no 'hits' on here, but plenty of highlights: the opener "Victor Jara's Hands" sets the table; "Man Made Lake" ends in a searing electric guitar solo; "Inspiracion" is a Spanish-song little ditty with great Mexican horns; "House of Valparaiso" features Iron & Wine's Sam Beam on vocals; and so on. There are really no weak tracks on here, period.

In all this is a great album that deserves all the critical acclaim it has gotten. I can only hope to see these guys live at some point, what a show that I suspect it would be. Hopefully they'll be either at Coachella or Bonnaroo, both of which I'll be attending this year. Meanwhile, "Carried To Dust" is highly recommended!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ginna in Cville on September 12, 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
In their 6th CD Calexico does not disappoint. Joey Burns gets better and better, Jacob Valanzuila is an incredible talent, the band's performance as a whole is flawless. And they bring in the very best guest performers. This CS is second only to seeing them in live performance, an experience which is a must for any music lover. Great depth in this music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 16, 2010
Format: Audio CD
From the fertile cross-cultural soil of the American Southwest, John Convertino and Joey Burns have grown this smart, understated symphony, possibly their best album yet. Fifteen tracks, including three instrumentals, one Spanish-language song, and unbilled appearances by Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) and Pieta Brown (Greg's daughter). It carries you like a river, and deposits you cleansed at the far end.

Though this album does little to surprise Calexico fans, the sound seems more spare and muscular than it has in the past. Most tracks have six to eight musicians and intricate arrangements, but Calexico's appropriation of Latino, rockabilly, and indie rock sound austere, like something heard from a great distance. I can't help remember all the prophets and artists who felt most at home in the desert.

The lyrics shuffle across images like a hungry kitten, not something to understand so much as to experience. Ironic juxtapositions and abstract images yield up their secrets only when you listen enough to spot patterns. "Cell phone trees" and "fractured air" resonate more with poets like Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens than conventional songwriters. Think of it as a singalong for smart people.

And the music dances across genres, from Sun Records blues to hot jazz jams to border ballads. This band refuses to be pinned down, outmaneuvering every attempt to fit them into easy categories. Sadly, this is probably what keeps them from the mainstream success they so richly deserve, but for listeners who prefer edginess to polish, authenticity to panache, this album feeds a need that pop artists overlook.

Time and again, I wonder why so few artists make music that challenges me, makes me think, and urges me to be a better, brighter person.
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