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Friends Of Dean Martinez Random Harvest Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

It's widescreen music to watch a bloody red sunset by, while sipping tequila.

Chris Jones 2004

Enough water has passed under the bridge now for Bill Elms' band of Tuscon mavericks to be considered far more than just another Giant Sand/Calexico offshoot. True enough, their ranks were once swelled by the likes of Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and John Convertino but with Random Harvest their brand of desert-inspired instrumental Americana comes of age and looks set to finally establish them in their own right.

As far as reference points go the opening latino shuffle of ''So Well Remembered'' does recall the mariachi stylings of Calexico. Its rattling percussion and twanging Spanish guitars can't help but remind one of southern badlands populated by hombres with bad intentions. Here the comparisons have to end, however. By the time you've acclimatised yourself to an album edging down Mexico way the track ''Ripcord'' transports you into some wide open vista that's less desert and more deserted. Key to their sound is Elms' lap steel guitar. Its overdriven, delay-drenched keening performs a bizarre balancing act that puts it exactly between space and country rock.

Over the next 40 minutes the band manages to summon up the phantoms of Neil Young, the Doors, Jimmy Page, Steve Howe and Red Rhodes while still mixing in equal amounts of electronica and Tex-mex. Manzarek-style keyboards blur with filmscore strings while Elms floats above it all like an eagle. And it can go from a whisper to a scream effortlessly. It's widescreen music to watch a bloody red sunset by, while sipping tequila. By the penultimate track - the transcendant ''Lost Horizon'' - the elemental beauty of it all will have you gasping like a gecko in the heat of the wilderness. Undoubtedly, an album of the year...

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