On its first four albums, the Arizona band Calexico established itself with avant-garde ambience and world music touches from mariachi to eastern European. But the group’s latest effort, “Garden Ruin,” is a much more direct and accessible affair — by design, according to co-founder Joey Burns.
“We wanted to just kind of challenge ourselves,” says Burns, 39, who leads Calexico with longtime cohort John Convertino. “For me this record is not as wide in its scope of influences as our last record (2003’s ‘Feast of Wire’). This one’s a little more honed in, a little tighter. There’s more emphasis on the vocals, no instrumentals ...
“We didn’t want to repeat ourselves. As much as we like playing music that has influences from eastern Europe or some other regional background, we’re into doing pop stuff or classic rock sounding tunes, but taking them and putting a whole different twist on them.”
Burns says “Garden Ruin” was particularly influenced by Calexico’s experiences over the past couple of years, which included backing singer-songwriter Neko Case and the Tex-Mex all-star group Los Super 7, recording a song with Nancy Sinatra and playing a broad array of festivals around the world. Calexico, he explains, came back to the studio filled with ideas but also with the discipline to keep them robbing the album of focus.
“There were a lot of songs that were more experimental,” Burns says, “a lot of songs and ideas that didn’t make the record that were more jazzy or more experimental for more Southwestern sounding.
“But it wasn’t that hard to (keep them off). You kind of follow a thread. It’s hard to defi ne and distinguish; it’s a feeling. You just want to hear a different thing.”
Calexico and Oakley Hall perform Wednesday at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call (313) 833-9700 or visit
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