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Spanish Gold

South of Nowhere (BMG Rights Management)

Reviewed by Thomas Fawcett, Fri., July 11, 2014

Phases & Stages

Recorded during a half-dozen sessions in Austin, Nashville, and Louisville, Spanish Gold's borderland bow, South of Nowhere, blurs the boundaries of band and genre. The collaborative project from former Hacienda singer Dante Schwebel, My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan, and Brownout and former Grupo Fantasma guitarist Adrian Quesada was spearheaded by Schwebel and built around his songs inspired by Laredo, a hometown he shares in common with Quesada. The opening trifecta, earworms "One Track Mind," "South of Nowhere," and "Out on the Street," meld garage rock with gritty blues and flourishes of psychedelic soul, the latter two spinning tales of clandestine border crossings and Laredo street life. "Day Drinkin'" spills a front stoop slacker anthem, while "Movin' On" proves all the time Schwebel and Hallahan spent with the Black Keys wasn't for naught. Quesada remains best known for his work with horn-laden Latin ensembles, yet it's the arid desert haze of another of his side projects, the Echocentrics, that seeps into South of Nowhere. That's especially true on "Don't Leave Me Dry," a five-minute exercise in mid-tempo hypnotism that Quesada destroys with screeching guitar for the song's final 90 seconds. The back half of the album doesn't carry the same quality karat as the first, but given that Hallahan and Quesada had barely met before stepping in the studio, it's a wonder that Spanish Gold glistens as it does. It's unclear what the future holds for a band with so many other commitments, but South of Nowhere proves instantly worthy of a sequel.

***.5

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