Cordovas worship at the temple of the Grateful Dead, a devotion that isn't exactly uncommon in the 21st century, yet this adoration may come as a surprise to anybody familiar with the pure pop pleasures of The War of Women, the 2003 debut from the band's leader, Joe Firstman. Fifteen years separate The War of Women and That Santa Fe Channel, the official debut from Cordovas, and a lot has happened to Firstman since then, the most prominent being his stint leading the house band at Last Call with Carson Daly. Once he left that gig in 2011, he formed Cordovas, releasing an indie record shortly afterward. Another solo set followed in 2014 before he decided to put all his chips on Cordovas, polishing their rough-hewn sound and signing with ATO. That Santa Fe Channel, their 2018 ATO debut, showcases an amiable band that strolls along in the fashion of American Beauty, settling into a laid-back country groove with ease. Where many modern-day Dead homages tend to favor six-string explorations, Cordovas keep their focus on the song, a move underscored by an emphasis on ragged harmonies and an anchor of languid piano. The bandmembers never really get the tempo cooking -- the blues shuffle of "Standin' on the Porch" comes the closest -- but, then again, they never even try. Instead, they float in a haze, creating a soundtrack for sunny good times. If the songs are occasionally tripped up by their own rambling spirit -- in particular, the words are a shade too hippie-dippy, lacking specificity and grace -- the lazy vibes are nevertheless appealing, as Cordovas get their Dead tribute precisely right.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine