Lucid Culture


CD Review: Pistolera – En Este Camino

One of the best debuts of 2008, a bracingly catchy, smart, politically aware all-female rock en Espanol band blending upbeat accordion-driven Mexican banda music with jangly guitar rock. Pistolera means “gunslinger” in Spanish: the title of the cd is “this way.” Augmented by a horn section in places, the production is superb, vocals, guitar and accordion out front, drums in the back where they belong.  The optimistic Nuevos Ojos (New Eyes) begins with a reggaeish, clip-clop beat (that’s Ani Cordero, frontwoman of the excellent Cordero back behind the kit), frontwoman/guitarist Sandra Lilia Velasquez’ casually soulful vocals joined by the band on the chorus as is the case on many of the songs here. Piloto (Pilot), set to the same beat, features an amusing, upper-register Dr. Dre-style synth patch blending nicely with the accordion.Vieja (Old Lady) is a haunting, swaying, somewhat stately number with a long accordion intro.


The band add clarinet and tuba to the bouncy yet pensive oldtimey ballad Un Momento. Sarcastically set to a jump-rope melody, the lyrics to Policia recount the true story of Velasquez’ nasty encounter with airport police, who wanted to confiscate her newly acquired bullet belt:


Senor policia le digo la verdad

Si soy peligrosa pero no por les armas

Dejeme libre y jamas me va a ver

Uno de mis talentos es desaparecer.

(Mr. Policeman I’m telling you the truth

If I’m dangerous it’s not because of my weapons

Let me go and you’ll never see me again

One of my talents is disappearing)



The punchy, rustic, acoustic Inquieta (Nervous) is a strikingly terse, poetic look at the restless unease of immigrant life. The theme continues, picking up the pace with Extranero (Foreigner), a timely reminder that ultimately we’re all strangers somewhere and that we’d better not forget it. The rest of the cd includes the catchy, mariachi-inflected love song Eres Tu (It’ll Be You); the contemplative, piano-driven tango Reina (If I Was Queen), and Guerra (War), a timely remake of the Bob Marley hit that references Iraq, Afghanistan and Chiapas. What a good band, and what a fun album. And you don’t have to speak Spanish to enjoy it (although Spanish speakers will appreciate Velasquez’ excellent lyrics). Watch this space for New York area shows; Pistolera’s next gigs are Oct 17 and 18 at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain, NC.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Reid Paley Trio – Approximate Hellhound

Frequent Frank Black collaborator Reid Paley mines the same noir Americana/blues territory as Tom Waits, but differently. Consider: when you hear Waits croak “Misery is the river of the world,” you know he’s not some destitute alcoholic living in a trailer. That’s just Waits being Waits. With Paley, it’s not so easy to tell. His music is also stylized, but there’s genuine menace there. Chances are it’s all an act…but maybe not, a chance better not taken. Musically, Paley is a purist, playing his vintage archtop guitar with just a hint of natural distortion, backed by an equally purist rhythm section who don’t mess around or clutter the songs. Vocally, Waits is the obvious influence, but also Screamin Jay Hawkins and maybe Lux Interior: there’s a bit of mad Elvis in there, but something else that’s just a little off, a little disconcerting. The cd kicks off with a bluesy goodbye song. “I’ll see you when the sun begins to shine,” Paley intones gruffly, meaning never. It’s as blithe as Paley ever gets here, a song that Louis Armstrong could have written if left to his own devices.


The cd’s second track, the gypsy-rock Yr Polish Uncle lopes along eerily on an electrified polka beat: “I swear on the back of my forty-third abortion, I see your devil peering round the door.” Take What You Want is an uncharacteristically pretty, 6/8 ballad that nicks the melody from Sitting on Top of the World. If the smooth pulse of the bass sounds familiar, it probably is –  that’s Daria Grace from Melomane and the Jack Grace Band pushing it along. The Dark Sky makes a halfhearted attempt at reassurance: “Don’t be afraid of the dark sky/I’ll hold your hand when it comes down.”  Better Days imagines a serious nightmare scenario: “Hangover sunrise Sunday morning, half dead on Bedford Avenue.” Imagine: the sidewalks still scattered with tourists, all of them still high on coke and blabbing on their cellphones, and the L train isn’t even running! The cd ends with a confused, drunken rant, Paley giving an innocent bartender or bar patron a real hard time, but all the same he doesn’t want to be left alone: “Gimme a fucking goddamn drink, stay awhile.” Fans of all the noir guys: Waits, LJ Murphy in his more outside moments, Nick Cave et al. will love this cd. As you might expect, Paley is a considerably charismatic live performer: his next gig is Sat, Nov 15 at 11 at the Parkside.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , | Leave a comment