Over nearly twenty years of existence on the fringes of Americana, Calexico have not paid for guitar-shaped swimming pools for their constituent members. But they have become one of those bands that elicit especial admiration from other artists: odd, wayward, sui generis. Edge Of The Sun, Calexico’s ninth album, is where Calexico call in those chits, enlisting a formidable supporting cast of admiring collaborators, including – but not limited to – Carla Morrison, Greg Leisz and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.
At no point, however, does Edge Of The Sun feel, as such enterprises can, like an exercise in mutual ego-stroking, or an ill-disciplined rave-up. Every guest appreciates that Calexico’s sound is sufficiently expansive to permit kindred souls all the space they might need. So “Edge Of The Sun” accommodates Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell on the breezy, Jayhawksish opening track “Falling From The Sky” as generously as it does Greek traditionalists Takim on the sephulcral “World Undone”, or Neko Case on the brooding anti-pop of “Tapping On The Line”, redolent of one of the better album tracks from R.E.M.’s wilderness years.
And the guest cast do not occlude what remains a recognisable strain of Calexico’s Ameri-Mexicana. The south-of-the-border component is arguable even more prominent than usual: some of “Edge Of The Sun” was written in the Mexico City neighbourhood for which the instrumental interlude “Coyoacan” is named. “Cumbia de Donde”, graced by call-and-response backing vocals from Spanish singer Amparo Sanchez, is a sweet, trumpet-drenched shuffle. “Miles From The Sea” and “Beneath The City Of Dreams”, both featuring Guatemalen singer Gaby Moreno, also echo Calexico’s ongoing journey along the United States’ southern frontier (John Convertino, indeed, has recently relocated to El Paso.)
It ends with “Follow The River”, an almost incongruously straightforward ballad, which channels the autumnal melancholy of Crowded House to the extent that Joey Burns ends up sounding something like Neil Finn (DeVotchKa’s Nick Urata provides backing vocals). It’s an elegant close to a(nother) illustration of the breadth and generosity of this remarkable group’s vision.