Country act Broomdust Caravan may technically be new to the Santa Fe scene, but its themes are pura Santa. On debut album Heavy Rescue, front man John Widell (aka Johny Broomdust) selected a who's who of established local talent for a superband with the likes of guitarist Justin Lindsey, vocalists Margaret Burke and Felecia Ford, harmonica master Freddy Lopez, multi-instrumentalist and SFR Credit Manager Josh Martin and others. Recorded at Frogville Records' studio with engineer Bill Palmer, the album makes serious inroads into local exploration.
"I'm into playing music and figuring out what New Mexico music is all about," Widell tells SFR. "I like the community aspects of it…whatever it takes to bring people together."
The album begins with the perfect opener, "Heavy Rescue." It's a Johnny Cash meets swingin' country fiddle number about thundering Southwest skies and demonic strife. The song shows off Widell's songwriting chops, while it gives his freakishly talented band room for shredding fiddle solos and bluegrassy guitar picking. Backup vocals from Burke and Ford shine, while Widell's voice recalls the grand tradition of baritone country singers such as Conway Twitty.
"10,000 Miles" pays homage to the classic "highways and byways" style of country songwriting. Widell regales us with a long list of countrywide travel destinations as Martin layers sweet pedal-steel guitar throughout. This traveling bard song establishes Widell as an experienced musician and, more importantly, an experienced human being.
The band continues the theme of travel with "Little Valleys." In it, Widell takes his sweetheart on a road trip, with beer and weed enhancing the beautiful scenery and mellow days he describes. It's almost like a Jimmy Buffett song—sans the lazy, shiftless drunk part. Widell just hangs, jams and visits beautiful places; he enjoys his life.
"Hidin' Out in Española" has a traditional Mexican folk sound, perhaps due to the nylon-string guitar finger-pickin' away in the background, the waltzy rhythm and the ranchera-style backup vocals. This song is the album's toe-tapper. Spanish vocals work their way into the number and, for once, Española doesn't look so bad.
The album finds its slow jam with "A Song and My Heart." Widell sings: "Hey, girl, I've been checking you out and I think you need me around to sing you songs and let you know you're hot."
Sure, he may be poor but, as we've learned from countless films, a worthy woman is happy simply with a pretty song for a gift and a guy who doesn't suck. This tune was probably written for Widell's wife, and a guy who loves his wife is always pretty cool.
"My Little Casita" closes the EP with an upbeat accordion backbone and the knowledge that Widell really loves this town—or at least singing about it.
For a chance to check out the band and do something nice, attend the Cinco de Mayo benefit for Youth Shelters. Not only will Latin folk singer Nacha Mendez and AlternAmericana badass Anthony Leon be on hand, you'll sleep better knowing your donation went to a good cause.
"The way I see it, there are people in town willing to drop 20 grand on a single piece of art, so maybe they can shave a little off the top and donate while enjoying some great music from local musicians," Widell says.
Should you be a heartless monster (or otherwise busy for Cinco de Mayo), Broomdust Caravan begins a Thursday night residency at Tiny’s starting at the end of June.
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