The Upshot: A guaranteed party starter that hails from Tucson but extends its sonic tendrils to New Orleans and beyond.
BY FRED MILLS
First couple of tunes in, Tallsome Tales, by Tucson group the Carnivaleros, immediately set my Spidey sense (tarantula, natch) tingling. It’s a damned delightful desert disc, part-Tex-mex, part-N’awlins, part folk- and indie-rock, all quality stuff. Who are these guys? For starters, they are fronted by accordionist/vocalist Gary Mackender (well, he also plays drums, percussion, and additional keyboards), and featuring bassist Karl Hoffman, drummer Les Merrihew, and guitarist/fretmaster Joe Fanning, plus a slew of Tucson kith and kin pitching in (backing vocalist Bjorgvin Benediktsson is also now listed as being an additional guitarist). Together, the stir up a giant melting pot of sonic chorizo gumbo that will leave you demanding encores. Or second helpings, take your pick.
Indeed, from the noirish polka pop of “The Die Was Cast” and the surreal, Tom Waitsian hectic blues of “Liquor, Vice, and Sin” to the sensual spaghetti western romance that is “Belinda Bonita” and the outrageous Los Lobos-meets-Little Feat “Justified Fitting End” (which should be turned into a crime novel – check out the lyrics here), Tallsome Tales is a guaranteed party starter. This group effortlessly bridges genres and thwarts preconceptions, period.
Incidentally, it occurs to me that timing can be everything: I left Tucson in the summer of 2001, having spent 10 wonderful years in the city (family business called me back home), but if I’d stuck around just a few more years I might have been privy to the early stirrings of the Carnivaleros—Tallsome Tales marks the band’s sixth album; and if it’s a reliable indicator of Mackender and company’s sonic mastery, I can state without any reservation that I would have been sorely tempted to stick around the Old Pueblo. Tucson is one of the planet’s richest musical centers, and the Carnivaleros are nothing less than proud ambassadors.
DOWNLOAD: “Justified Fitting End,” “Belinda Bonita,” “The Purple Door” (instrumental)