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The Carnivaleros: Strictly Tabu 

As a musician and artist, Gary Mackender does a lot of cool things. But clearly his passion is the Carnivaleros, his ever- evolving project that while often out of site is never quite out of mind. Like each of the band's three previous CDs, this one is draws upon talents of a unique set of players, specifically chosen for the recording. Unlike the others, there is breadth and scope to the material, and its delivery, that puts this offering head and shoulders above its predecessors.

While it's no surprise the title plays like something out of a groovy spaghetti western, several minutes in, this instrumental is taken over by a wall of horns, arranged by brother Greg and featuring Carla Brownlee, Dante and Marco Rosano, and Rick Peron. Their presence is prominent throughout including the next tune, "Sheriff Joe," where the band sounds more like reggae icon Burning Spear than anything of the Southwest.

While a requisite number of Tex-Mex and Eastern European gypsy riffs pay homage to the group's signature sound, this album is more defined by those elements not previously found such as Mitzi Cowell's sultry blues guitar on "Small Motor Repairman" and soulful vocals by Landis Kearnon and Catherine Zavala on "Supper Club Magician." With more organ and piano than we're accustomed to and a more reflective approach to storytelling, with and without words, it's clear this CD, was well worth the wait.

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