Thursday, 11 September 2008

Carried back to form...?

Calexico’s new album Carried to Dust was released this week (, and after a couple of quick spins I’m glad to say it sounds pretty great. In honour of this - and a return to their more instrumental, less song based approach - here’s a list of ten great instrumentals to check out…

10. ‘Misty’ Friends of Dean Martinez
A ’95 Sub Pop release, The Shadow of Your Smile featured members of Calexico and Giant Sand, and is well worth tracking down if you can. Track 10, Misty, is particularly good, an accordion led piece that kicks things off here in fine, ramshackle style.

9. ‘Nashville Skyline Rag’ Bob Dylan
A lovely up tempo instrumental on which the great rock lyricist takes back seat to the band that backed him throughout his (for me) underrated Nashville Skyline album.

8. ‘Blackmountainside’ Led Zeppelin
Controversially inspired by a Bert Jansch (see below) arrangement of a traditional folk tune, ‘Blackwaterside’, this instrumental from Led Zeppelin I showcased Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar playing. A raga style, played in an open tuning, it’s every bit as dark and powerful as any of the heavy, electric blues they’re better known for.

7. ‘Anji’ Bert Jansch
The holy grail of folk guitar, this tune was originally written by Davey Graham, but was made famous by his protégé Bert Jansch (in turn a key influence on the acoustic playing of both Neil Young and Jimmy Page). Based around an Eastern rhythm, it’s a brilliant, otherworldly piece of music.

6. ‘Albatross’ Fleetwood Mac
The most famous tune of the band’s first incarnation, led by the blues guitarist Peter Green, ‘Albatross’ is a beautiful instrumental. If you only know Rumours era Mac, I urge you to go back and listen to this.

5. ‘El Tiradito’ Richmond Fontaine
Richmond Fontaine are a band influenced by Morricone’s classic Western soundtracks as much as other so called alt-country bands. This track taken from their album Thirteen Cities – recorded at Calexico’s Wavelab studio in Tucson, AZ – opens with whispering acoustic guitar and pedal steel which then builds on brooding, distorted chords before opening up with a gorgeous slow guitar break.

4. ‘Green Onions’ Booker T and MGs
As the Stax house band, Booker T and the MGs are one of the most influential bands in the whole history of popular music. An inter-racial band at the height of the civil rights movement, they played with everyone from Otis Redding to Sam & Dave to Wilson Picket (and later the Blues Brothers and Neil Young). This, their signature tune, showcases everything that’s great about this band, and is one of the all time great dance floor fillers.

3. ‘A#1’ The Sadies
From the Sadies third album Stories often Told, this track is a great example of the way they fuse surf guitar, country and psychedelia and, as with Richmond Fontaine and Calexico, pretty much all their albums feature great instrumentals.

2. ‘The Emperor of Wyoming’ Neil Young
Perhaps only Neil Young would opt to open his long awaited album with an instrumental, but this gorgeous country waltz, is a beautiful laid back, original start to one of rock’s most interesting and contrary recording careers.

1. ‘Paris Texas’ Ry Cooder
From Wim Wenders’ great film. Ry Cooder’s sparse and melancholic slide guitar is surely one of cinema’s all time great musical moments, perfectly married to the image of the man appearing out of the desert.

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