Today’s the day that Chris Cacavas racks up 60 runs around the sun. In that time, Cacavas has been a founding member of Green On Red, has had a lengthy solo and band career with Junkyard Love, played on innumerable releases by the likes of Giant Sand and Steve Wynn and currently mans the keyboards in the reformed Dream Syndicate. To celebrate his birthday, a host of friends and fellow musicians have recorded this album, comprised of covers of his songs from across his career, a surprise gift from them to him as it’s unleashed today.
Taking part in the enterprise are Calexico, Howe Gelb, Steve Wynn, Chris Eckman, Stephen McCarthy and Russ Tolman, all contemporaries of Cacavas back in the early Serfers/Green On Red Days. Also included are Pat Thomas (who released the first two Junkyard Love albums), Edward Abbiati from Lowlands (who has recorded with Cacavas) and Hakan “Hawk” Soold, who is the executive producer of the album, along with various others who have come into Cacavas’ orbit at some point. Cacavas is criminally underrated in his native USA but has always had a healthy following in Europe, perhaps a factor in his eventually moving to live in Germany, and this disparate bunch reflects his career, from Tucson days to the vineyards of Europe.
Listening to the album one is struck by the quality of the songs, reminding us of how good a songwriter Cacavas is, whether delivering hi octane rockers with a blistering Neil Young like fury or delving into emotional distress. Truth, by The Plastic Pals, Wrecking Yard, here performed by Pat Thomas and Drivin’ Misery, given a fine reading here by Steve Wynn, remind one of what a powerful listen the first Chris Cacavas & Junkyard Love album was. That said, the songs that tumble out here show that the quality control button has always been within his reach with Stephen Mccarthy’s E-Z Living (from the solo album, Anonymous) proving to be particularly poignant while The Surfin’ Nerdz’s delivery of California (Into The Ocean) allows one to consider Cacavas to be as acute an observer of LA malaise as John Murry on his Graceless age album. There are 18 songs here which remake and remodel Cacavas in varying degrees. Calexico transform the churning rock drive of Just Do Something into, well, a Calexico song with their trademark desert shuffle and mariachi horns. Howe Gelb likewise transforms the guitar encrusted howl of Pale Blonde Hell into a heady mix of cocktail exotica and lounge lizard vocals. We haven’t space to talk of all the songs but we can heartily recommend the album to any fan of Chris Cacavas or indeed, anyone with an interest in the so called Paisley Underground and its offshoots.
Happy birthday to Mr. Chris Cacavas.
Songs From The Fans is available on CD and as a download here.