From the opening notes of the first song, "Victor Jara's Hands" it becomes apparent that Calexico is back in top form. On their last album Garden Ruin, the band dabbled in more straightforward sun drenched California pop, and while the album was very good, it lacked the energy and diversity that has made Calexico's sound so unique. Conversely, Carried to Dust is a tour de force filled of worldly influences and moods, with subtle pedal steel guitars, full horn sections, and some Cumbia/Son-infused numbers.
The album is a sprawling cinematic voyage across border-town countries, in which enthusiastic numbers reminiscent of spaghetti western scores such as "El Gatillo" and dark moodier pieces like "Fractured Air" flow seamlessly into one another. Carried to Dust is completely driven by these climactic mood changes that make for a listening experience as fulfilling as watching a John Wayne movie on the silver screen.
Stand out songs include the mariachi horn laden opening number, "Victor Jara's Hands", which is about the poet murdered by Pinochet, whose name lived on as a symbol of artistic bravery and inspiration in Chile. "Writer's Holidays" subtle acoustic strums, lyrical delivery and subdued background hums produce a spacious dusty number filled with beauty, while the gorgeous country duet "Slowness", featuring Pieta Brown, is Calexico's shining moment with it's twangy slide guitar and melodic lyrical exchange that plays out like a perfect moment in ones life.
Calexico has definitely gotten their musical mojo back. This is the album that should have followed their classic Feast of Wire, but I guess late it is always better than never. Carried To Dust is a crowning achievement that is quite possibly Calexico's best album to date.