The first time I bought the excellent Uncut magazine was in 1998 when there was New Order on the cover and a free CD of Alternative Country Americana. It was an area I knew precious little about, apart from a Long Ryders LP (as heard on Kershaw) and some Flying Burrito Brothers tracks on a compilation tape Way out west of Kirkstall from my mate Tim Gough – Where are you Tim?
The free CD Songs from the new west was excellent with loads of names that, now common place, were unknown to me at the time – Calexico, Vic Chestnut, William Oldham
I wrote to Calexico after hearing them in session on Peel early in 1999 – I loved the story that their early recordings were done on an answering machine and wrote to ask if they were available. Joey Burns replied ..
I had the great pleasure of seeing Calexico at the Leeds Festival (August 2000). It turned into one of the best gigs Ive been to, in a criminally under attended tent Oasis could still pull a big crowd in those days. The wonderful Mojave 3 (if you havent got their Out of Tune CD shame on you!) and the bizarre Dirty 3 played that night too. Calexico however stole the show with their amazing Mariachi band who transported us all from West Yorkshire to South of the boarder, the atmosphere was electric.
If you were looking for a place to start, the track that sums up their sound for me is The Crystal Frontier all pulsating guitars and Mexican horns .wonderful. Burns and Convertino have been involved in many a quality band in the past too including Howe Gelbs Giant Sand (loads of free stuff available from http://www.giantsand.com) and the ABBC Tete a tete CD.
The Ballad of Cable Hogue is available on Hot Rail
Crystal Frontier is available on Even My Sure Things Fall Through