Wednesday, March 25, 2009

***Joe West***

Santa Fe, NM-based singer, songwriter, performance artist, and all-around musical experimentationalist Joe West just dropped his first CD for children, If the World was Upside Down, an album of classic country Americana flavored with a smidgen of southwestern spice. West is a highly-respected figure in the Santa Fe / Albuquerque music world, having released several CDs on the Frogville Records label.

If the World was Upside Down kicks off with the title tune, a philosophical, Johnny Paycheck-like bar room singalong, followed by the jaunty, loving tribute to "My Grandma," who has her quirks but is still our favorite person in the world. Then comes West's accordion/mandolin cover/remake of Michelle Shocked's "The Ballad of Patch Eye and Meg," from her 1986 album The Texas Campfire Tapes.

"Dump Trucks and Tractors" is a full-on hardcore honky tonk hit that oughta be blasting out of every juke box in west Texas, and the band is given a chance to stretch out instrumentally on the tune. Sounding very much like Willie Nelson, West turns in a beautiful old west song, "On the Banks of the Rio Grande," a tune destined to become a new classic (and dig the dobro solo). And the sunny "Anita Pita" tells the story of a single mom supporting herself and her teenage daughter by vacuuming art galleries.

"Veronica Rose the Flying Unicorn" is a swaying love ballad, while the gorgeous "Robots of Rayleen" tells the story of dance floor-lovin' automatons who adore the band because they have a smoke machine. And West's semi-instrumental cantina rocker "Don't Forget to Brush Your Teeth" is kinda his version of "Tequila." The album ends with the melancholy epic "Homemade Rocket to the Moon" and an instrumental version of "Patch Eye" called, appropriately, "The End."

The coolest thing about this project is that it's a real band playing real music, not some goofy grownups twiddlin' through some kiddie tune cast-offs: West's band of crack musicians from the Santa Fe area don't hold back on their performances one single bit. This stuff is intelligent, funny, and musically right on. Awesome Americana for the whole family.

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