Marfa: A Country & Western Big Band Suite (Golden Hornet)
Reviewed by Rick Weaver, Fri., Nov. 22, 2019
A Connecticut Yankee under the big and bright stars of Presidio County, Graham Reynolds rides the ley lines of West Texas' Davis Mountains up, down, over, and beyond. Guitar strings soak in tin bathtubs of studio reverb as clusters of ocotillo violins crook toward endless twilight. Aside from the caravan frolic-n-roll of "Stampede" and "Union Pacific," Marfa: A Country & Western Big Band Suite lolls and grazes instrumentally along dustless roads where modern composition gazes backward. "Highway 67" drives a 16-wheeler across a blanket of mystery lights in an X-Files slapback of whistle and soft abduction. "Runaway" follows with violins that spiral upward into the realm of Shostakovichian suspense. While "Afterhours at the Ballroom" lounges in the train yard afterglow of a soft jazz apocalypse, "Ojinaga" shatters earth in a post-punk triplet swagger and big-sky brass. The album's centerfold, "Redd Redd Redd" clips the side of "Dali's Car" as it revels in the salt-and-sour twang of Merle Haggard regular Redd Volkaert's guitar. "The Chihuahuan Desert" hair-raises a vast spread while dodging horror perceptions (e.g., Jóhann Jóhannsson's Sicario score), and opens into "The Uninhabited," the C&W suite's de facto climax, where "Summertime" meets Stax Records. After a slow, strong melody and some brass warps, homegrown cineaste Richard Linklater's film scorer of choice joins the country-soul constellation of idiophones, lap steel harmonics, slinking bass, and straight-down acoustic guitar strums with a heightened crunch-and-decay piano solo.