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Califone



Califone is the direct descendant of the late great Chicago blues-rock band Red Red Meat, whose four albums of rackety, helter-skelter and roll madness were crucial documents of the '90s post-Stones indie underground, which also included the likes of Royal Trux, The Grifters, and Railroad Jerk. After RRM disbanded in the late '90s, gravel-voiced frontman Tim Rutili began pursuing a new musical project (as well as running Perishable Records with fellow ex-Meater Ben Massarella) he dubbed Califone, after the audio supply manufacturer.

Initially Califone was just Rutili at his computer, but soon it expanded to include a rotating cast of supporting musicians, including all the former members of Red Red Meat (and, at various times, members of Rex, Tortoise, and The Fruitbats). Like Red Red Meat, Califone tweaks the hell out of classic American roots music. But instead of employing a deranged blues framework, Califone makes music that sounds influenced by the weary lonesome strumming of old folk spirituals like those found on the Anthology of American Folk Music, but with a strange avant-garde electronic edge. This may sound disorienting and troubling, but somehow Califone manages to pull off this marriage of old-timey songcraft and modern electronic ambience in an organic and affecting way.

Califone started out in the late '90s with a pair of highly regarded self-titled EPs, since re-released together as Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People. Their debut album Roomsound came out in 2001 and was followed a year later by an improv-derived film score titled Deceleration One.

With "Border Lord," which the group recorded with onetime Spinane Rebecca Gates, Califone applies their by-now signature treatment of hushed vocals and acoustic guitars and clattery rhythms to the classic Kris Kristofferson tune. It appears on Incidental's tribute to the bearded country outlaw, Nothing Left to Lose, which also features Kristofferson covers by Richard Buckner, The Court and Spark, The Handsome Family, Grandaddy, Deanna Varagona, and countless others