Over the past few years, Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico have been the hired guns of Americana. Need a rhythm section to enhance your dust-strewn ditties? They’re your men. It helps of course that Convertino is one of the best drummers around with a solid yet relaxed swing and that Burns has a direct line to south west cool. Here, transported to Tucson’s Wavelab studios and with a roster of local luminaries in tow we have Susie Hug, ex of UK indie band The Katydids, tapping into the Calexico lode in fine fashion. While her voice is as clear as ever the jangled pop sound of The Katydids is missing, instead we have a laid back set of songs that float and shimmer like a heat haze. There is nothing here that utilises the full blown Texarkana mariachi style that Calexico do so well but Hug uses the musicians to provide colour and atmosphere, the trumpet of Jacob Valenzuala wails mournfully on several songs while Convertino plays excellently throughout with tasty fills.
Hug’s clear voice has an anglo sensibility which at times is reminiscent of early eighties groups such as The Marine Girls. She is joined on the first song, “A Modern Lie” by Burns’ melancholic vocal. This is an excellent opener, accordion and Spanish guitar weave in and out while the pair duet magnificently. “A Modern Lie” and “Everybody Changes” are the songs that most evidently wear the Calexico imprint on their sleeve but “Cherry Blossom Hangs” has a delicate folk singer meets spaghetti western feel. “Flinch,” with dead pan vocals, sounds like The Raincoats in their latter days with some wonderful sonic rumblings from the band which are then revisited on the closer, “My Own Skeleton.”
One is reminded of the album that Convertino and Burns as OP8, along with Howe Gelb and Lisa Germano recorded some years ago although this is less dusty with more weight accorded to the singer. Hug’s songs are well up to par and the pairing with the Tucson crew is an inspired touch.
The album is released by a relatively new label, Vacilando '68 who appear to be becoming the main conduit for Tucson based music here in the UK. Hot on the heels of their release from Marianne Dissard, another Calexico sidekick, they are well worth keeping an eye on.
Website Susie Hug
Listen to A Modern Lie