Friends of Dean Martinez Random Harvest

Friends of Dean Martinez Random Harvest
The temptation to compare Friends of Dean Martinez to Calexico is inevitable. Not only did both groups issue forth from members of Giant Sand (and yeah, core Calexico members Joey Burns and John Convertino were charter members of FoDM), but they also traffic in similar styles of cinematic, dusty desert, epic country. Random Harvest, their ninth album in ten years, distinguishes the Friends as they stretch out into less hospitable, but just as captivating, territory. The instrumental album begins with a three-part suite ("So Well Remembered,” "Ripcord,” and "Winter Palace”) built around a common strain of loping, hypnotic riffs and deliciously metronomic drumming and then lifts unexpectedly in the soaring title track. Where Calexico might take the high road towards cleaner, prettier sounds, Friends of Dean Martinez belly-crawl through the grit with terrifically textured, delay-drenched electric guitar, climaxing just short of metal on the final track, aptly-titled "Nowhere To Go.” Bandleader Bill Elm’s majestic steel guitar playing, particularly that on the eight-minute-long Middle-Eastern-by-way-of-Led Zepplin-tinged "Dusk,” provides the anti-heroic centre for this exquisite and darkly charged album. Random Harvest is a horse opera without a moral, a black-hats-only shootout that ends in a dust storm where everyone loses. Except, of course, the listener. (Independent)