If any single band captures the polyglot richness of the American southwest it’s Calexico, the long-running band formed in 1996 by singer, songwriter, and bassist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino, who first came together as the rhythm section in Giant Sand six years earlier. Over the years the group has expanded its stylistic scope, developing a poetic, spirited celebration that collides the hooky concision of indie rock with cumbia, Tejano, mariachi, and alt-country verities. While some forces in American politics continue to advocate for a border wall, Calexico’s music shows us what we could lose without the vibrant exchange between south-of-the-border infusions into U.S. culture.
In 2022 the group released its 10th album El Mirador, a typically sprawling and diverse collection of songs that brought Convertino and Burns back to their old stomping grounds in Tucson, Arizona (they now live in El Paso and Boise, respectively), recording at the studio of the group’s long-time keyboardist Sergio Mendoza. The group made the album during the summer of 2021, and Burns has said, “The pandemic highlighted all the ways we need each other, and music happens to be my way of building bridges and encouraging inclusiveness and positivity.” Indeed, the album’s uplifting spirit was bolstered by a sense of community, with the group’s extended lineup complemented by guest vocalists Gaby Moreno and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.
As Pop Matters has written of the latest work, “Calexico’s tenth studio album drips with energetic cumbia, conjunto, and mariachi influences—a sort of “Arizona noir” answer to the excellent baroque folk-rock of Lord Huron’s Long Lost. Twenty-six years on, Calexico are still finding means for innovation wrapped in a hearty nod to the region’s folk music that they blossomed in. The album may hone in on past sonic influences but does so with a cinematic flair that doesn’t seem unfitting for the band.”