Feast of Wire: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
I am cemented to the memory of the first time I heard the intro to “Quattro (World Drifts In).” John Convertino’s percussion is the definition of finesse. It’s border town rhythm with a side of seduction. Your hips involuntarily move to this. Then Joey Burns slithers in, coils up, and strikes with the lyrics.
Love the run but not the race. All alone in a silent place. World drifts in…
Boom. I called 2003, “the year of Calexico.” As a radio host, I might have overplayed it, if that’s possible.
This seems to be the year of the anniversary of so many of the great albums born in the golden early 2000s. “Back in my day,” we can now say without feeling ancient. “How can it be twenty years? I still feel (you plug in what works).”
The 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of Feast of Wire is as expected but with some great surprises.
If you don’t own the original release, go ahead and listen through the first disc (or record if you scored the three-LP vinyl). These remastered tracks will set the tone for one of the most place-centered sounds any band in my memory has produced. Tucson is calling. The mystery of the border. The flamenco palmas accenting Calexico’s cover of the Love original, “Alone Again Or” (included on vinyl for the first time), and the Tex-Mex ballad croon of “Sunken Waltz” that would have been a fine accompaniment to anything Sam Shepard could sling. “Dub Latina” is a traditional instrumental comfort zone, with some time to think about the album’s central theme: migration across the southern border. How relevant this still is. It’s beautifully expressed, whether you listen at musical face value or dig deeper into the issue at hand.
One of the best surprises for me is the bonus live album, More Cowboys in Sweden, featuring recordings from the China Theater in Stockholm. “Not Even Stevie Nicks,” which is in my top three favorites of any album, gets a lovely pared-down, but not stripped-naked treatment in the live performance. The original track had that Buckingham essence that couldn’t be unheard, mixed with a melancholy lyric. We know what happened. Somehow Joey Burns can paint infinite sadness with a whimsical watercolor filter. Beauty among the ruin.
The live version of “Güero Canelo” gives us a chance to actually hear the full lyric, which on the original was distorted for effect but plays out just as well without the fuzz. This is that “place-centric” sound that I love about Calexico. Even the “Nashville Sound” is going through an identity crisis. Calexico puts a pin on the map. It’s partly holed up at Wavelab studio in Tucson with time to burn, pushing ideas to analog tape, and it’s partly out on the arroyos of the Sonoran, where stories and painted sunsets melt together.
Twenty years later, these tracks hold their magic and ask you to revisit them often. Some of us never left them. We now have the gift of an expanded journey.