Califone - Heron King Blues
(Dead Oceans)

Over the course of their near 20-year career, Califone have created one of the most consistent and rewarding discographies within independent music. There’s no band more adept at submerging, and blurring the lines of, experimental sounds and folk music than Califone with main songwriter and performer Tim Rutili narrating the rich arrangements with a voice caked in rust and grace. There are no weak spots amongst their catalog.
Heron King Blues (Thrill Jockey 2004) is a bit of an anomaly in their catalog. It’s actually one of the more experimental and improvised records they’ve done. Much of the record came together at Clava / Four Deuces Studio in Chicago in 2003 with Rutili, Jim Becker, Joe Adamik and longtime collaborator Ben Massarella communing sounds live in the studio. It brings an increasingly dense atmosphere to the proceedings somewhat reminiscent of what the German greats Faust have been up to in the last 10 years. The use of field recordings, clanging pots and cans, and whatever else, closes out the sublime and all around plain great “Sawtooth Sung A Cheater’s Song.” That bounces boldly and fantastically into the rickety tone-poem “Apple” which is easily one of the most engaging songs Califone has produced. And of course there’s the simplified beauty of Rutili (mostly) alone with his acoustic on the hazy and bare “Lion And Bee.” And that’s before you get to the swampy, charred and acid-entrenched 15 minute experiment “Heron King Blues.”
Dead Oceans’ new, double-LP version of Heron King Blues is now available with a 2nd LP of radio performances and outtakes, 7 tracks more. Truly great bonus material here. It further solidifies Califone as a band both impossible to pigeonhole and difficult to ignore. A band you’re always happy to engage with and thankful for having in your life. (Dom)
Check out a track here.