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The Carnivaleros - Happy Homestead

Happy Homestead

The Carnivaleros

RVR CD 03-09

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I was exceedingly happy, two years ago, with this group's Lost in the Graveyard (here), and this one tops it, retaining the backyard BBQ feel and preserving a base sound this time impeccable in the documentation process, while evolving. I have to suspect the switch of Gary Mackender, who is The Carnivaleros when all is said and done, to sole production and engineering duties is the key, along with a co-engineering role in Chris Giambelluca. Note, please, that both are musicians and smart fellas. This, however, truly is Mackender's band, as the almost completely new roster of players attests, and the sound is as unique, delightful, sometimes hilarious, and attractive as ever.

Happy Homestead more clearly shows the strange inspissation of Jimmy Buffett, Tom Waits, and Herb Alpert—as long as you drag brassy sax in with the trumpet—in the bayou, booze, and folk-blues embodied by the Carnivaleros' music, from a number of mutant musical strains right through to the satiric, insightful, and loopy lyrics (here from the title cut):

The meek shall inherit nothin'
Long as nothin's what you're askin'
Hide out in your happy homestead all day long

'Cause your new life as an outlaw
Will repel all of your inlaws
They won't overstay their welcome any more

Such sentiments sit right alongside absolutely deathless advice as well: "Doncha listen to Rush Limbaugh any mo'!," which should be inscribed over the entry to the White House. From it all, the listener extracts a more heady dose of what Mackender's all about and, as good as the last ensemble was, this one's letter perfect, more laid back and sussed, swaying in the hyacinth back alleys and magnolia trailer-park lawn lots than Lost had. Interestingly, Mackender's accordion is a good deal less pronounced than was earier the case, concentrating more fully on the organ. He even picks up a bass guitar through half the cuts.

Homestead is what Carnivaleros music really is, 110% this time, and what that is, is infectious as hell, swingin' like a gin-swozzled junebug, and as sage as a grinning ranch-hand looking toward darkening skies. Yeah, Gary flats out on the vocals every so often, but that's part and parcel of the genre, which ain't exactly operatic, y'know? And oddly enough, the occasional trait perfectly counterpoints a musical bedrock always reaching for the next beer while carrying the day in a swingin' back porch recital. Thus, when you're tired of all the cinematic, staid, proper, and approved musics in every media source blaring at you, finding yourself looking for a disc you can take your shoes off to and buddy up with, here, my friends, is precisely what you want.

Track List:

  • Happy Homestead
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Dashboard Jesus
  • Alejandro
  • 900 Dogs
  • Dream of Modern Man
  • Sally and John
  • Call me on Home
  • Dyin's Gonna be the Death of Me
  • Angels in the Snow
  • Black Cloud over Oracle
  • The Wooden Leg
  • Waltz con Connie
All songs written by Gary Mackender except The Wooden Leg (Mackender / Hunt).

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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