Vinyl Reissue of Silos “Cuba” LP Packs Meaningful Punch
Back in the mid-1980s I was fortunate enough to stumble into the studios of WUSC-FM at the University of South Carolina, and even more lucky to have the presence of mind to sign up as a student DJ, a position I held from 1986-1989. One of the many albums I played on those airwaves was Cuba, from The Silos. The nascent roots-rock scene at the time which was gaining a fair amount of airplay included bands like the Beat Farmers, Jason & the Scorchers, Beat Rodeo, Blue Rodeo, Lone Justice, and more; The Silos stood out even in that crowd as a more elegant option free of artifice, kitsch, or irony, and a couple of live appearances in town around the release of this album cemented them as a personal and a station favorite. My own copy of it is in the form of the original vinyl release on the Record Collect label, but now Dualtone has seen fit to re-release it on vinyl themselves.
Cuba wasn’t the first Silos release (That was an excellent, almost solo Salas-Humara helmed self-titled EP) but it was certainly their first real ‘band’ statement. Walter was (and still is) the voice of the group, but the contributions from singer/guitarist Bob Rupe and violinist Mary Rowell gave these songs their shape, sincerity, and staying power. From “Margaret” with its slice of idyllic home life set to a violin elegy of Rowell’s making to the harmony counterpoints provided throughout by Rupe, the three main musicians here were both complementary and necessary, as I don’t think this album would have sounded the same without their collaboration. Certainly the band hasn’t sounded the same since Rupe ended his affiliation after three albums, underscoring his effect and influence here.
Over the years I’ve gravitated more to the quiet tunes on Cuba, but the single “Tennessee Fire” got plenty of spins and still does. A slowly building rocker detailing a love obsession that’s “so far out of reach” and featuring some positively ominous fiddle work from Rowell, it’s a taste of what was to come as the band left the softer stuff behind for the most part.
The best of the mellow songs has to be “Going Round.” Salas-Humara sings in a halting, gentle drawl on lines such as “And he thinks / that he knows / how he feels about you”, a recurring line that changes words around each time it comes around, just before the titular refrain of the chorus. The strings are full and lush, with not much more than an acoustic guitar alongside to get in the way of the sentimental tune.
“It’s Alright” splits the difference between the rock ‘n’ roll tendencies of the band and Salas-Humara’s more meditative contemplations; the thoughtful lyrics yield to full-bore guitar and drums on the chorus and bridge, building and swelling then almost abruptly completing the circuit in just over two and a half minutes.
I’ve wondered at the longevity of this album in my own personal collection, as it’s one I’ve pulled out and related to many times over the past twenty-five plus years. The only explanation I can come up with is that the relationships and situations described here are so elemental and real in their depiction that they reflect my own ups and downs in that department, from dating and breaking up to what’s now a 21-year long marriage to a “Margarget” of my own, in actions if not actual name.
The Dualtone vinyl reissue offers the original LP as released, plus a free digital download. An earlier CD re-release a decade ago added some bonus tracks from an accompanying EP, which don’t appear to be included in either case here. As an essential 80’s indie album, Cuba is hard to beat; now a new generation of vinyl fans can hear it in its original format.