How in the world is some of the best spaghetti western music coming from Denmark? Thank René González Schelbeck, who records solo as Western Skies Motel and as part of the trio aptly named Rodeo. Remember, Ennio Morricone (who just signed a new record deal at age 87) doesn’t hail from the United States either. The world has learned how to pay homage to a bygone era, whether through music or through film; Dust Bowl is only the latest example. It’s also the 201st cassette from the seemingly unstoppable Already Dead Tapes, who has not been content to rest on its laurels; even after celebrating its 200th release, the label continues to launch a new tape every week.
The associations are apparent from the very first track. “Ghost Town” lopes from the gate with steel guitar and a hint of castanet, establishing a languid vibe perfect for hazy days and rainy nights. “Tumbleweed” makes the listener yearn for a cold sarsaparilla. “Left to Wander” sounds like an outtake from a 1960s western, vibraphone intact. Rodeo has done its research well, and despite its geographic distance, comes across as authentic. According to an article in the Telegraph, there’s actually a cowboy culture in Denmark, and “Many of the locals (of western Jutland) identify more with the west of the Mississippi than they do with the rest of Scandinavia.” In light of this revelation, “Ride Across the Border” may not actually mean the Mississippi border, but the River Eider. And if the whistling breakdown sounds like the prelude to a gun fight, it may well mean something else: a regional pride that embraces a culture long after that very same culture has disappeared from its place of origin.
Dust Bowl is rife with short, soft stretches that create a sense of dynamic contrast. The Rawhide-esque “Drive” sounds more dramatic after the restrained “Melodica Man” than it would had it followed “Ride Across the Border”. Just as Morricone raised tension through quieter scenes, Rodeo earns its sheriff’s badge by honoring the ebb and flow of a town in flux. “Knots on a Rusty Wire” and “Carousel Brew” contain hints of Indian flute and circus music, while “Funeral” suggests a plotted trajectory. The tape as a whole is impressionistic, but it creates an impression; Dust Bowl may be the best western you’ve ever heard. (Richard Allen)