Although Algiers takes its title from the New Orleans neighborhood where it was recorded, you won’t hear a marked difference in the band’s sound. This isn’t their “New Orleans” album. The music continues to highlight the co-mingling of American rock, border folk traditions, with hints of African and Cuban styles. Burns admits that the band was looking for a new environment to help re-energize the music. Indeed there is a passion and romance to the record, shadowed by a brooding sense of disquiet, perhaps derived from the theme of unsettled lives. Burns and Convertino have often written of the lives of immigrants. Again, that is a main theme. The lyrics reflect an intriguing mix of culture and language. The fractured lives of immigrants torn from their families create a mournful backdrop for the songs. The music follows suit. Opening with the song “Epic” the writers lay out the hopes and fears of those looking for a chance and constancy in their lives. “Sinner In the Sea” captures the desperation of the Cuban refugee and the perilous journey at sea. “Puerto” captures the wrenching choice of leaving one’s culture and family for opportunity.
As on its other albums Calexico offers instrumental interludes and Spanish ballads. The title track “Algiers” weaves accordion, pedal steel, trumpet, electric and acoustic guitars, rock drums and Latin percussion into a wordless American tale. “No Te Vayas” features long time Calexico member Jacob Valenzuela dueting with Jairo Zavala of Depedro. Their poignant vocals are matched by the gorgeous tones of an accompanying trumpet.
Other tracks feature the vocals of Joey Burns, who sculpts his vocals to match the meter and message of each song. He travels between the desperately urgent, to soft whispers that drift down over the music like a thin layer of desert dust.
Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Host)