Have you seen the news lately? Things are looking pretty bleak out there, what with the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout. Concerts and other mass-attended events are being cancelled, folks are being encouraged to stay home and avoid public spaces — it’s more than a little overwhelming and terrifying.
But while you’re stuck inside, laying low, there is something you can do. You can hunker down, set some mood lighting, and bask in the warmth of some good tunes.
That’s where From Liberty Street, the latest album by California country duo Mapache, comes in handy. Sure, it’s not going to cure any viruses or manage a crisis response, but for about 40 minutes you can take your mind off the state of the world and listen to 14 well-crafted, tastefully performed tunes.
From Liberty Street isn’t so much a progression or evolution of the style Mapache unveiled on its 2017 debut, but a continuation of it. Opening track “Life on Fire” is a slice of breezy country-folk, its melody and the harmonies of Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch capturing the feel and sound of The Grateful Dead circa American Beauty.
Mapache settles into a comfortable groove across the entire album that pulls together pieces of the Bakersfield sound of ’50s country, Mexican folk, and campfire songs, music that just feels meant to be played and listened to by itinerant folks hanging around a fire at night. This vibe is best exemplified by the group’s cover of the Mexican bolero “Me Voy Pa’l Pueblo.” Its straightforward and unadorned arrangement is gorgeous, the vocals are excellent, and the overall performance feels referential to its cultural origins.
There’s a pervasive feeling of warmth that runs through From Liberty Street. Whether it’s on a song like the lovestruck “Cactus Flower” or the classic country ballad “I Just Steal Away and Pray” that closes the LP, Mapache presents its songs with earnestness and compassion.
And in these times, when social distancing is a necessity and life with a pandemic becomes the new normal, we could all use a little more warmth, earnestness, and compassion in our lives.