1998, Music

The Black Light (1998) by Calexico

A decade or so ago, I accidentally saw Calexico live. I had no idea who they were but they were opening for Wilco, who I was desperate to see after seeing them live on TV.

They made an impression on me, I think (though I have lost my review somehow), but clearly not enough of an impression for me to actually bother listening to them. So I just added them to my list and, a decade or so later, here I am finally listening to them for a totally different reason (podcast).

Calexico are what happens if Doug Sahm had been shy, didn’t love singing, and had grown up in the 1980s, listening to alternative rock in addition to his other influences. They really do sound to me like the spiritual descendants of the Sir Douglas Quintet, replacing the rock and roll, R&B and British Invasion influences with Alternative and Indie Rock, and the country with Alt Country. They’ve thrown a few other things in the mix too, so at times its practically “chamber tejano.”

The music is compelling, sometimes catchy, sometimes pleasant, sometimes mysterious. As others have noted, it often sounds like its the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist.

I really like this and it’s a reminder that sometimes I just need to abandon my weird process and listen to stuff when I first learn about it.


  1. “Gypsy’s Curse” (Burns) – 4:17
  2. “Fake Fur” (Burns) – 2:36
  3. “The Ride (Part 2)” (Burns) – 3:08
  4. “Where Water Flows” (Burns, Convertino) – 1:57
  5. “The Black Light” (Burns, Convertino) – 3:20
  6. “Sideshow” (Burns, Convertino) – 2:02
  7. “Chach” (Burns, Convertino) – 3:32
  8. “Missing” (Burns) – 6:01
  9. “Minas de Cobre (For Better Metal)” (Burns) – 3:08
  10. “Over Your Shoulder” (Burns) – 4:10
  11. “Vinegaroon” (Burns, Convertino) – 1:06
  12. “Trigger” (Burns) – 2:34
  13. “Sprawl” (Convertino) – 1:27
  14. “Stray” (Burns) – 2:54
  15. “Old Man Waltz” (Convertino) – 2:29
  16. “Bloodflow” (Burns) – 5:09
  17. “Frontera” (Burns) – 4:19


  • Joey Burns – vocals, double bass, guitar, cello, mandolin, accordion, keyboards, steel guitar, percussion
  • John Convertino – drums, vibraphone, marimba, accordion, percussion, thunder drum

Additional personnel

  • Howe Gelb – piano, organ
  • Nick Luca – Spanish guitar, claves
  • Gabriel Landin – gitaron
  • Neil Harry – pedal steel guitar
  • Bridget Keating – violin
  • Rigo Pedroza – trumpet
  • Fernando Sanchez – trumpet
  • Al Tapatio – trumpet
  • Tasha Bundy – background vocals
  • Stephanie Nelson – fuzz vox

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