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Old Californio - Metaterranea (self-released)

26 October 2023

It’s funny how what was mainstream in one era becomes underground in another. The West Coast sound of the 70s – country- and folk-inflected, guitar-heavy, sunny, friendly, almost impossibly melodic – moved in four decades from the radio to the alt.rock clubs, revived by a coterie of cool bands like GospelbeacH, Pacific Range, the Parson Red Heads, the Mother Hips, even the fictional Daisy Jones & the Six. Old Californio has been around longer than those bands, except the veteran Hips, and if their sixth album is any suggestion, own this sonic wave with as much authority as anyone. Metaterranea boasts a fresh coat of pain on a classic sound, with acoustic guitars, harmonies, restrained keyboards, artfully deployed electricity, and a tasteful rhythm section. Leader Rich Dembowski seems like he was in a philosophical mood when he wrote these songs – tracks like “Destining Again,” “Tired For a Sea,” and “Timeless Things” indicate far more on his mind than romantic turbulence or sociopolitical ponderings. “The Seer” brings the navel-gazing back down to earth, not only with blunter lyrics, but also a more forthrightly rocking tune. Old Californio doesn’t stretch the boundaries of their chosen form in any way, but they do what they do quite nicely.