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Tierra del Fuego: Press


Release date: December 11, 2010
Label: Scapular Winging

Through pure happenstance, I witnessed this local band, Tierra del Fuego, on Saturday night play as they played to a small but appreciative crowd at Trunk Space. It just happened to be the band's CD release gig, and the price of admission came with the band's new CD. It was the best $7 I spent all weekend.

The show was real good, and the CD is outstanding -- a good-natured and warm celebration of Western swing, old-school country, modern alt-country, Southwestern eclecticism, and even some Blasters-inspired roots-abilly. Bloodshot Records, sign these guys already.

The quartet is the complete package -- top-notch musicianship that eschews flashiness and never strays beyond being totally tasteful, confident two- and three-part harmonies, and a solid collection of songs that aren't afraid to flirt around the edges of their genre. When I saw these guys Saturday, they even played a straight-faced country take on the ridiculous punk chestnut "I Love Livin' in the City" by Fear. It was the perfect statement for another under-attended night on sad ol' Grand Avenue.

I've been playing this record a ton since Saturday night. And this is one of the best local bands I've seen this year -- and I've seen a ton. Check out their website to hear some music and find out when they're playing next.

Best song: Upbeat: "Bounded Glory." Downbeat: "In the Garden, On the Vine"
Rotation: Heavy
Deja Vu: Back when I lived in Chicago, a decade ago, this band would've packed the Hideout.
I'd rather listen to: I've since found out that Tierra del Fuego shares ace guitarist James Pyper with Man About a Dog, whose 2010 record, Viva!, is pretty awesome too.
Grade: A

Driestemmige vocalen en een glansrol voor de steelgitaar, dat is in het kort waar Tierra Del Fuego voor staat. Maar er valt nog wel meer te melden over Queen Of The Rendezvous (Scapular Winging Records) van deze band uit Phoenix, Arizona. Zo is de instrumentale opener Steel Guitar Swing In F Maj bijna countrypolitan in een modern jasje: een jazzy aanpak met rollende drums en een parmantig nootjes rondstrooiende gitaar als bodempje voor de steelgitaar. Die meestemmige vocalen hebben wel iets weg van Dillard & Clark op een aantal nummers. Op Tall Clover komt daar nog een linkje naar Flying Burrito Brothers bij. Van een beetje experiment is het gezelschap ook niet vies, zo heeft The Peace Beyond The Dream een Caraïbische tik. De lichte dub roept herinneringen op aan Johnny G en ook de Fellow Travelers (de voormalige band van de in countryreggae gespecialiseerde Jeb Nichols). In The Garden, On The Vine heeft de sfeer van The Friends Of Dean Martinez of het veel bekendere Calexico, terwijl er ook iets van de invloed van Rank & File in te ontdekken valt. Broken Cup heeft weer fraaie samenzang en het traag meanderende ritme volgt de steelgitaar als een blad dat in een rivier stroomafwaarts glijdt. Have Fun en Bounded Glory kiezen iets meer het pad van rockabilly met de lichte touch van iemand als Chris Isaak. Do Think Twice, It Ain’t All Right en de afsluitende instrumental Kaw-Liga’s Revenge zijn alleen al door de fraaie songtitels de moeite waard. Verkrijgbaar bij CD Baby.

EAGLE STEW (Scapular Winging)

The alt-country scene in Phoenix has both it's glory and tragic moments. The glory comes from the talent that these bands possess and the festive atmosphere of their performances. The tragedy comes from the short lived nature of many of these bands. The scene is fairly small and incestuous, only because those involved do not seem to own a connection to either the traditional country scene or the roots-bar-rock scene known to rule the streets of Tempe for close to two decades. Remember, this is Arizona. It's not like Glenn Campbell or Jessi Colter peak their head out of seclusion and come out to jam with youngens on a regular basis. Our most visible country star within the state of Arizona was originally a punk rock performer (Chip Hanna). There really isn't a "Austin City Limits" spirit out here.

Hopefully Tierra Del Fuego will not be a casualty like the Wormwood Brothers or The Traveling Will before them. TDF play like they are from the South, which statistically could only be partially true considering the high percentage of mid-westerners that relocate to the valley of the sun. There is down home humbleness and southland irony in the words sung by bassist Brock Ruggles. His lyrics project an imagery that is mostly fiction and perhaps gothic in our day of age. Yet it's difficult to dismiss TDF's sound as retroactive or Ruggles stories as merely folklore. The entire record just appears honest and convincing enough. Even the slide guitar that makes regular cameos throughout Eagle Stew sounds authentic and not cliché. So far I can't find anywhere where this CD is available online, therefore all I can offer is a link to their myspace page.
- (Mar, 2009)

“Donny, you’re out of your element!”

This immortal quote from The Big Lebowski has been running through my head all week as I’ve been working on a profile of Tierra del Fuego’s Eagle Stew.

I don’t know much about country music. I am of the generation that grew up thinking Garth Brooks and LeAnn Rimes were the be-all end-all of the genre. Know that asshole that said “I listen to everything. Except country.” That was me. Maybe it was you (If you are still that asshole, well, stop being an asshole).
As a result, I know very little. No knowledge of the terminology. Still in the “getting to know Johnny Cash” phase. Didn’t know what a steel guitar sounded like until a couple of years ago. So I can’t wow you with the startling insights or pinpoint descriptions a diehard might.

But I can tell you that Eagle Stew is a fucking great album.

For the sake of telling you how the music makes me feel, let’s get general, shall we? I mean really, disgustingly “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

Ever seen (or been) a guy talking to his friend, and one of them mentions, offhandedly, something horrible that happened to him? And the other guy just nods? Then they go back to playing Xbox, or talking about the local football team’s ineptitude?

The point is, this whole album had me nodding. These ten songs exude the comfort of shared experience. I don’t need a doctorate in country music theory to know that listening to this album reminds me of chillin’ on a few beers with my buddies and shooting the shit.

“South Side of Forever,” despite its upbeat tempo and feel, is about just being tired. Not from a long day of work, but from life. All the way through to “I Pity the Poor Immigrant,” the Dylan song that ends the album, Tierra del Fuego molds their twang to perfectly create an atmosphere of comforting melancholy.

Just buy the CD. It will make you feel good like a dive bar with your favorite song on the jukebox.

Tierra del Fuego hails from the sweltering American Southwest, where hot dusty eves are spent pickin', drinkin', and singin' sun-baked, busted-radiator mesquite rock. This "cactus core" seems to have come straight out of a bygone era of lost souls scrounging for whiskey 'n' pills 'n' twenty dollar bills. Think pre-rock Americana in a bizarre love quadrangle with Dixie jazz, the British invasion, and the punk explosion. Shakyboots likens the sound to "a front porch of friends in Appalachia singing about their lives and toil as the clouds pass by in happy acknowledgement of the human condition below." Tierra del Fuego's debut album, The Great Saturday Night Swindle, features quality songcraft, big steel guitar, beautiful harmonies, and infectious melodies that invite you to sing along.

"It would mean so much to me to know mystery," Brock Ruggles announces early on in The Great Saturday Night Swindle, but he and his new band Tierra del Fuego have crafted a debut album even Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe in the study would have no trouble figuring out. Tierra del Fuego, composed of members from Rum Tenor, El Oso Negro, and Source Victoria, offers a quiet country delivery and tight harmony approach that's a bit more accessible than Ruggles' last brilliant band, . . . and guppies eat their young. That outfit had an air of beautiful desolation about itself, but the music was all distance and reverb, like you were always looking at life's troubled turns from a closed-circuit monitor. On The Great Saturday Night Swindle, you're right in the driver's seat with Ruggles as he's "making turns and taking burns," looking heartache dead in the eye, and moving on. Even at their most despairing, these songs have a glint of hope shining out the other end, from the bright sunny day that permeates an otherwise "Vile Fucking Task" to the gospel end of all strife on "Dark Angel of Death." One listen to The Great Saturday Night Swindle and you'll believe that even the dead couple lying facedown in the grass on the murky album art seem like they might be able to work things out in the next life.