CALAVERAS - Calaveras
After two self-produced demo-CDs and two movie soundtracks, this self-titled record is the first album for Calaveras to be released on a label. Calaveras is a word with many different meanings. It’s a county in California, a lake in Texas, paper skeletons used as an ornament on Mexico’s Day of the Dead, but the seven piece music band from Chemnitz, Germany took the name from a cycle of paintings created by Mexican artist Josť Guadalupe Posada.
I’m always a bit sceptical when I’m listening to German country musicians as they often display a lack of power and energy. Their label Sweet Home Records has released a number of rather disappointing records in its recent past, but Calaveras is so far their best artist even though they are not yet overwhelming.
Their music is a mixture of Americana, folk, country and indie rock. As the lyrics are morbid stories about life, love and death, the music also prefers to be kept in sadder moods. After a short shoot-out intro, a calm tune starts with acoustic guitars, trumpets and whistles, putting your mind right into the middle of Mexico. The smoky vocals, present only on about half of the songs, remind of Leonard Cohen. There are also some tracks with string arrangements which is a nice addition, but this doesn’t hide the problem that the album could need more speed and variation. Beyond The Pale has a different feeling, with its loungy atmosphere, but I prefer the country side of Calaveras.
Even if the album is worth listening to, I can’t understand why currently so many German bands are trying to sound like Calexico, as not a single one is even able to come close to their idols. Calaveras have nevertheless done a decent job and I could imagine their music as the soundtrack for a spaghetti western or as the background music inside a western saloon.
The CD contains 12 songs and a video clip for Vice Of Killing which is not included as a song on this record. It’s a low budget western short movie about the gold rush. Nicely made, but far from the charm of Helge Schneider’s Texas.