Mapache

From Liberty Street

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Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch are Mapache, a charismatic close harmony duo whose breezy West Coast folk songs traverse country rock, light psychedelia, cowboy music, and even Mexican traditions. The two native Los Angelenos have been friends since high school when their mutual interest in skateboarding and songwriting helped solidify a burgeoning creative partnership. Although their personal paths diverged for a few years, both eventually returned to L.A. and were soon collaborating in various bands -- including a Grateful Dead tribute act -- before paring down to their current acoustic duo format. Released in 2017, Mapache's eponymous debut established their core organic sound and was recorded live in a studio around a single microphone. For their follow-up, From Liberty Street, Blasucci and Finch took a more relaxed approach, working out the material they'd written on the road and recording it in their shared home (on Liberty Street) with a group of close friends. A charming blend of off-the-cuff experimentation and ever-deepening songwriting chops, the 14 songs here feel familiar and worn-in without bowing to the usual tropes that run so rampant through American roots music. Whether it's the woody jangle of "Cowboy," the spacey "Coyote," or the springy "Face Is Blue," their take on classic Western fare is full of small surprises, sophistication, and tons of personality. Mapache's affinity for Mexican music plays out in a trio of Spanish-language originals that are among the set's highlights, giving them a distinctive Southwestern flavor that helps set them apart from other contemporary Everly- and Louvin-loving close harmony duos. The loose spirit of early-70s Dead, Neil Young, and Gram Parsons all thread their way into Mapache's quilt, but ultimately they have their own thing going on and no track better represents their abilities than the excellent "Cactus Flower." Nimble and jazzy with unique harmonies and a gorgeous fiddle part by Sara Watkins, it's the beating heart of this strong sophomore album.

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