CD Review: Escondido – The Ghost of Escondido (Kill Canyon, 2013)
What if, after cutting his musical teeth in Phoenix, Lee Hazlewood had turned East to Nashville, rather than West to Los Angeles? And what if he’d met Nancy Sinatra in Music City rather than the City of Angels? The answer might sound like a twist on the Western-tinged landscapes of “Summer Wine” and “Some Velvet Morning,” and it might have sounded something like the opening track of this Nashville band’s debut. Vocalist Jessica Maros’ sings a bit more ethereally than Nancy, but with the same confident sass that was catnip to Sinatra’s fans. Maros’ cohort Tyler James fills Hazlewood’s role as vocal straight man, but with a grittier rock ‘n’ roll kick and a haunting trumpet sound that evokes the sun-baked deserts of Sergio Leone and forlorn mood of Bobby Hackett.
Despite those tips of the sombrero, Escondido isn’t a hipster rehash of Nancy, Lee or Ennio, as they also gear down to a dreamier sound that brings to mind Mazzy Star. At times, such as on “Willow Tree,” Maros conjures both Nancy Sinatra and Hope Sandoval, and James, along with bassist Adam Keafer, drummer Evan Hutchings and guitarist Scotty Murray paint the backgrounds in spare, atmospheric strums and echoing notes. Recorded in a single day-long session, the album is populated with ruinous femme fatales, lonely sirens and upbeat farewells. The band’s hard twanging “Don’t Love Me Too Much” was recently featured on ABC’s Nashville, which is a larger coup for network television than for a band whose original combination of influences should attract ears from both the mainstream and the outside lands.