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CD Review: The Oswalds' "Hasta La Bye Bye" 

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The Oswalds Hasta La Bye Bye

(2015, Independent)

Reactivated after a 27-year recording hiatus, the Oswalds are acclaimed writer and songsmith Camden Joy (vocals, rhythm guitar) abetted by Hudson Valley music scene stalwarts Mark Donato (drums) and Mark Lerner (bass, multi-instruments). The fruit of this reunion is the 12-song cycle Hasta La Bye Bye. The songs are lyrically and musically adventurous vignettes of characters and consequences of the Mexican Drug wars—on both sides of the border. Joy aptly describes the project as "a mongrel sound; narcorridos as garage rock." (Narcorridos is a drug outlaw-inspired subgenre of traditional romantic folk ballads from Northern Mexico known as norteno corrido.)

The first track, "Rascacielo," employs lilting rhythm, spare percussion, and plinking mandolin to open the album's narrative at the end of its tragic cycle of narco-trafficking. "They shot the singer who sang about the singer they shot / This is nowhere near the place we thought was fun / Isn't it sad when innocence finally gets it due," croons Joy. Conversely, "Opium," a jaunty, Tex-Mex rocker featuring Sweet Clementines guitarist and Chronogram contributor John Burdick, conveys the joyous sense of a trafficker finding his new cash crop or the false hope of a user coming to the final stop on the addiction train. The album's layered production takes the songs in surprising directions: "Something Must Be Done" rolls out like a grainy Folkways field recording before breaking into a crystal-clear power pop toe-tapper. The Oswalds will perform on May 1 at BSP Kingston.

  • Jeremy Schwartz reviews The Oswalds' Hasta La Bye Bye.

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