Best of Music from Fiesta de las Calabazas 2003-2006

REVIEW of CALABAZAS 2003-2006 CD by David Auerbach

This is real country music, ladies and gentlemen. The day before I listened to the Best of CD by various Calabazas artists, I came up with the following rule, which in an attack of Texas-sized ego I’ll call Dave’s law of fake country:  If a song makes use of any electronics save a microphone and some speakers, and maybe, just maybe a mixing board, it’s not country music, regardless of how ‘Southern’ the singer sounds. And we’re not too sure about that mixing board. Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking Carrie Underwood so long as you admit that you’re listening to a type of pop music. Don’t get me wrong. I like Carrie Underwood. I like pop music sometimes. But calling it “country” when it’s not peeves me just a little bit. I wonder how many of our “country” stars live in the country. Here’s a hint: Nashville has 607,000 people in its metropolitan statistical area. Maybe that’s a small town in China, but not here. And Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington-etc-etc-etc would be considered a major metropolis anywhere. And one more thing: Texas and Tennessee don’t have a duopoly on countryside.  I think I lost the point. What was it? Ah, yes, this CD is real country, even though they call it Jazz for reasons that remain unclear.

It has non-electric instruments and non-modified voices and that’s it. There’s no synth, no computer making their voices sound like they can do things they can’t, no fake Southern accents, no fireworks or laser shows, and no “earworm” beats designed by sound engineers in Los Angeles (metro population: 16 million plus). It’s just a few ordinary folks who are singing because they like to sing, not because they want to be rich or famous or popular.   And they live in Oracle, which you can see is in the country – for the time being, at least – just by looking around. This isn’t Hollywood or Dallas or even Nashville, it’s just Oracle. It admits what it is, unlike big-money “country” pop music. But it’s good. It’s music for listening, not dancing or marketing or whatever else.

Track 6 (Gina Lollobrigida, The Carnivaleros) is awesome. I didn’t know a harmonica could do that. Track 5 (Lost in the Graveyard, Carnivaleros) is spooky like Kansas before a storm where the ground is a smooth featureless green and the sky a creamy gray – and that’s it. Track 4 (Vamp in the Middle, Greg Morton Trio) is like a gathering of friends at the state park. Several songs are actually about here – sky islands, cacti, and whatnot. Track 9 (Sky Island Home, Freddie Terry) feels like there are real saguaros around, not cartoon ones. You can laugh (just a little) at the one and only Bob Dylan (wink wink) on Track 12 (I Am Bob Dylan, Rod Mac Donald) if you want. I know that not all of these singers are from this particular patch of countryside, but you can tell they love it the same as a native – maybe more. It has the obligatory dueling banjos and home on the range tribute, though you have to listen pretty closely to hear that tune – I’ll let you find it.   Really, they have something for most moods.

Buy this CD. Support Oracle. Support Oracle State Park. I’m keeping my copy, unless someone from the Calabazas wants to coverthunder across the desert.

(David is the Music Critic for The ONE Newsletter, Oracle. He is taking this CD with him to China on a teaching gig.)

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