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Esquela

Canis Majoris – 2016 (LIvestock)

Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen

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CDs by Esquela

The Americana genre label is used to represent an extremely diverse group of music. Basically, anything that doesn't fit into the mainstream, but takes some of its inspiration from country or folk music gets lumped into the category these days. Esquela is the perfect example of how vague the term has become, drawing upon the blues, country, folk and more throughout their songs.

The songs themselves are interesting because of the diversity. While some fall flat in execution, the shifting genres keep interest up, curious where the next song will go. Of course, this is also the biggest downfall as the most engaging track for a listener may sound nothing like anything else on the release.

Each track takes the music in a different direction. The electric blues of "Gold Digger" are clearly aiming for George Thorogood territory, but it falls more into generic small town bar band territory. The somber "Sorry" is a textbook apology song, but the change in vocals in the first half is a welcome break from Rebecca Frame's overwrought howl, which grows wearisome as the album drags on. On "Pine Tar," the band examines an obscure baseball scandal through a moody slow jam. It's not the most interesting song musically, but those unfamiliar with the story may be drawn in by the tale. That being said, where Drive-By Truckers would take a similar tune and wrap it around a dark tale of murder and drugs in the Deep South, Esquela attempt to place an excessive amount of weight on the outcome of a game, and it leaves the listener feeling unfulfilled. This is the theme that threads throughout, as the band prove that they are capable musicians, but largely failing to convince the listener that they are more than the background noise in a crowded bar with a lousy sound system.

Esquela are interesting because they are able to bounce between genres and confidently tackle a variety of sounds. It is possible to picture that they would be an interesting live group, but they have failed to show that they are an accomplished recording band, creating an album that sounds frustratingly like a hastily assembled collection of demos and B-sides.