Friday sees the much-anticipated release of the second volume of Dean Owens’ Desert Trilogy – three EPs which each feature a song from his even more anticipated Sinners Shrine album (due for release in September) along with other songs recorded in or inspired by his recent Tucson liaison with Calexico.
Sand And Blood opens with Land Of The Humming Bird, co-written with Gabriel Sullivan of Tucson rockers XIXA (this EP’s sneak preview of the album). It finds Owens fully embedded in the southwest borderlands on a dark romantic song played with an effortless sense of swing. Sergio Mendoza’s piano playing here is excellent while Naim Amor adds some neat guitar grumbles, but it’s Gaby Moreno, duetting with Owens on vocals, who really steals the show here. Owens has a thing for hummingbirds but he’s never made them sound so exotic as he does here.
Dolina casts a darker shadow as the Calexico chaps shift into their most moody groove with staccato trumpets bursts and shards of guitar thrown out like gravel from under a juggernaut’s wheels. The lyrics are menacing, the sand and blood of the EP’s title are to be found here, and the coruscating distortion of Owens’ voice midway through is quite gripping, like watching a cinema giallo unfolding before your eyes. Ashes & Dust is one of the songs worked up internationally during lockdown with the musicians zooming in from Scotland, Texas, Arizona and Berlin. You certainly can’t see (or hear) the joins as it fits in perfectly with the atmosphere summed up in the previous songs. It’s a dustier and drier vision of the desert, summoning up the stark adobe peppered barren landscapes of Leone’s own trilogy. With Owens capturing the inner thoughts of a blessed and cursed individual, like a funeral procession, the song proceeds slowly, the protagonist approaching his own personal Golgotha.
It has to be said that Dolina and Ashes & Dust are both quite tremendous and that neither of them are slated for inclusion on Sinners Shrine just makes one wonder how good that album is going to be. Anyhow, the EP concludes with She Was A Raven which is an alternative take of the opening song. Here they abandon the refined pace of the original and instead sweat it out. Gone is Gaby Moreno, and in her place are Jacob Valenzuela’s rip snorting trumpet trills and Joey Burn’s scathing guitar solo adding up to an almighty rumble.
Sand And Blood is available on a limited edition CD here. The third volume of the Desert Trilogy, Ghosts, will be released in July.