The Shadow of Your Smile

I’ve had this CD since the mid-90s and still listen to it. It’s just that good and not what you would expect from Sub Pop. Sub Pop? Yes, released on Sub Pop in 1995, the disc (and group) featured ex-members of Giant Sand, Calexico and Naked Prey and emerged as lo-fi, instrumental Americana band with awesome surf-rock, slide, pedal steel-ish guitars. A lot of this disc sounds like the desert and Bill Elm’s steel guitars are prominent throughout. Other guitars, ranging from clean acoustics to very dirty garage guitars (I imagine a Jaguar through two stompboxes into a Fender Twin) are provided by Joey Burns. There was great vision for this CD and it’s a very tight and focused package. I don’t think the band (or loose association of people) has ever been able to come close again.

The band cruises through a wide range of tunes, including the jazzy title track, a mellow version of Misty, Thelonious Monk’s Pretty Ugly, a roustabout version of the lullaby All the Pretty Little Horses and an assortment of Joey Burns originals. The disc was recorded in Tuscon and it sounds it! The atmosphere just drips off like beads of condensation on a bottle of Twisted X. There is a cinematic quality to many of the originals too that never gets old. The playing and performances are tight and never try to do more than is necessary to do the songs justice. In addition to this disc I ended up with a copy of the “Friends” version of Wichita Lineman and marvel at the gnarly, distorted guitar solo! This disc was great over 20 years ago and was true inspiration when I began playing instrumental music and I still return to it again and again!