Gabriel Sullivan & Taraf de Tucson – None of This Is Mine

January 01, 1970



In 2009, songwriter and multiinstrumentalist Gabriel Sullivan released his
debut album By the Dirt and instantly
established himself as one of the most promising artists to emerge from the
fertile Tucson
music scene since Calexico. That he frequently collaborated with members of
that band and its extended family – and more recently, with Marianne Dissard
and Howe Gelb/Giant Sand – was no coincidence. In his skillful and oftentimes
provocative marriage of blues, gospel, country and indie-rock to the indigenous
Latin and border culture flavors of the Southwest, Sullivan was clearly
simpatico with his fellow Old Pueblo sonic adventurers. (Read the review of By the Dirt here.)


As Sullivan himself told this writer in a subsequent interview, his musical
restlessness and willingness to stir the melting pot is undoubtedly the product
of being exposed to multiple styles of music while growing up in Tucson. “It’s got
something for everyone,” he said, of his hometown. “I think anyone who plays
music here, whether they’re conscious of it or not, reflects Tucson in a lot of ways. On top of the
unbelievably inspiring landscape, the simple life that comes with Tucson makes playing
music something you can do very easily, and truly enjoy. The musicians are
tight knit, the bands are incestuous, we all share underwear. There’s nowhere
like it in the world.”


Now comes None of This is Mine, a
wildly inventive project boasting a huge, 20+ cast of characters, aka Taraf de
Tucson (which shrinks down to a manageable 8 members when performing live). The
album’s drenched in Latino rhythms and flourishes, yet true to Sullivan’s
nature, those are rendered with a delightfully perverse sense of impurity: the
track “Cumbia Del Torero” is instructive, a hybrid melange of mariachi horns
and Balkan beats with hints of Caribbean and ska rhythms slipping in and out of
the mix as Sullivan leads the fray, singing in Spanish. Likewise, “Que Dolor”
is a multihued riot of sound, suggesting a group of Kodo drummers
unceremoniously swept up, deposited
in the middle of a drunken Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, and commencing
to jam lustily with the assembled guitarists, percussionists and horn players.
It’s the recording studio equivalent of Sullivan leading a motley gypsy crew
from city to city, performing for their meals – and perhaps indulging in some
surreptitious larceny behind the
scenes to boot.


Two tracks in particular offer insight into the Sullivan heart and the Taraf
soul. “None of This is Mine” is a bluesy, Spaghetti Western-flavored dirge for
nylon-string guitar, weeping pedal steel, strings and horns. “I’m the right
face in the wrong place, and now I’ve got no right to return,” sings Sullivan,
in his signature Tom Waits-esque bawl, with a mixture of dread and regret,
adding, “these are not the kind of bones you fall asleep in – and none of this
is mine.” Then there’s magnificent closing number “The Rust, The Knife”:
tearing a page or two directly from the Ennio Morricone songbook, in particular
the whistling, chanted background vocals and brisk, low-twanging baritone
guitar, it’s the windswept soundtrack
to an imagined slice of film noir (including guest Billy Sedlmayr’s spoken-word
interlude providing narrative) wherein Sullivan offers ominously, fairly
smacking his lips, “It takes a steady hand to take a life… the blood beneath
the foot of thee… the blood, the sweat, the tears, the rust, the knife.” Pure
sonic cinema, the song is at once reverential and subversive, further evidence
of Sullivan’s skill at incorporating his influences into a wholly unique
musical identity.


Incidentally, Sullivan has also released a companion album, Where the Bad Ones Go, a mostly solo set
recorded at home in two days, featuring everything from guitar and piano
instrumentals to country-esque blues and norteño ballads. It’s also available
from Sullivan’s Fell City Records label (


DOWNLOAD:  “The Rust, The Knife”; “None of This Is Mine”;
“Cumbia Del Torero” FRED MILLS

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