Selections from Road Atlas: 1998-2011 is another example of how much care and thought Calexico take in presenting their music to their fans. A distillation of the limited-edition vinyl set of eight tour-only releases — itself a project the band embarked on because fans requested it — it plays like a travelogue through Calexico’s lesser-known musical territory, since many of these songs were never released anywhere else. The whispery, thoughtful Americana of “Half a Smidge” and “Griptape,” culled from 2005’s The Book and the Canal, share a link with the official Calexico albums surrounding it, Feast of Wire and Garden Ruin; the flamenco-surf of “Glowing Heart of the World,” from 98-99 Road Map, evokes the band’s earliest days. The collection favors one of the finest tour releases, Aerocalexico, including four tracks from it, including fan favorites such as the holiday song “Gift X-Change,” the hypnotic take on the traditional “All the Pretty Horses,” and the original version of “Crystal Frontier.” However, none of the tracks here could be called predictable; the version of “Lost in Space” (from Scraping) finds the band rocking out, while “Detroit Steam” (from Tool Box) could be from a blaxploitation movie soundtrack. Selections from Road Atlas: 1998-2011 does its job well: not only will it have fans who haven’t heard all of the tour albums hankering for more, it also reaffirms what a prolific, and consistent, bunch Joey Burns, John Convertino, and company are.
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