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The desert is a lonely place. The Black Light, the second full-length album by the Tex-Mex duo Calexico, promises and fully delivers a scenic tour around America’s arid Southwestern provinces. Arizonans Joey Burns and John Convertino (also of Giant Sand) create a sonic journey with myriad instruments, including steel guitar, cello, mandolin, marimba, and accordion—in addition to special guests on trumpets, gitaron, organ, and Spanish guitar. As a follow-up to Calexico’s previous album, Spoke, the new release reaches farther back into neo-Latin rhythms and folk gestures to accentuate the spooky gypsy quality of the Southwestern genre. Opening with the sultry tango “Gypsy’s Curse,” the album moves forward with the mamboesque double-bass pizzicato of “Fake Fur” and relaxes in the oasis of the delicate cello-guitar duet “Where Water Flows.” But the true highlight of the record is the lovely “Minas De Cobre,” a Mariachi-flavored number with blaring trumpets and weepy violin. Guitarist Burns’ few vocal tracks are tastefully understated; his bare murmurings accompany the exotic mood but refrain from infringing on it. Despite obvious comparisons to former bandmates Friends of Dean Martinez, who rely mostly on elaborate covers of lounge and jazz standards to convey the same imagery of ghost towns and tumbleweed, Calexico is known for penning original recollections with an atmospheric twang. The Black Light could have made a suitable soundtrack for that shootout at the OK Corral.

—Amy Domingues