Friday, March 19, 2010

What do Josh Rouse, Calexico, and Buena Vista Social Club have in common?

Let's take Josh Rouse, Calexico, and Buena Vista Social Club as representative. All three are cross-over musicians between indie rock listeners in North America and what might be called Latin-inflected jazz or country.

I do not consider myself an expert in these styles of music, but here are some of the words used to describe these bands:

1. Calexico-- Latin, mariachi / conjunto / cumbia / Tejano, country

2. Buena Vista Social Club-- Cuban, Havana jazz,

3. Josh Rouse-- Midwest folk rock, bilingual, Spanish

All three might be considered border music, indicative of music that crosses musical and national borders in order to either find a new audience, or inflect the sound of the music with a mix of new worlds.

This is what I like about it. I confess that I don't listen to much Spanish music, but for whatever reason, it helps me that Josh Rouse is a Nebraskan who is playing music influenced by him living in Spain. Similarly, though I don't listen to a ton of Tejano music, somehow Calexico works for me. Similarly, Buena Vista Social Club, probably because it was brought back together for the recording by the American guitarist Ry Cooder, was also a crossover phenomenon.

Maybe this is simply a habitual exercise in indie rock, to bring into the conversation past masters and other cultures. For example, I didn't own a Loretta Lynn album until Jack White produced a new album for her a couple of years ago, and I didn't listen to Trojan Records reggae until Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead put together a compilation album.

Finally, just as an aside, I always know the kind of music I'm reviewing here will be a popular choice for my own mom, so I buy two copies, one for myself and one for her as a gift.

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