Sunday, May 10, 2020


Wreck of the Carlos Rey

Mayday always seems to me the cipher for maritime disasters, despite it being anything but exclusive thereto. But it has therefore be to sea I stare for my first post under this theme. There are quite a few shipwreck songs, often in the broadsheets of trad. arr., but I bet there aren't many that arise from the mean streets of East Los Angeles.

Los Lobos have a rightly celebrated reputation across their tranche of multi-faceted modern american music, embracing many genres from rock (and roll) through to traditional mexican ballads, via country, blues and polka. I love 'em. This song comes from their 2004 release, The Ride. Part of the early vogue for the now commonplace vanity of cramming in as many guests as you can, this has a stellar cast across the areas they inhabit and invoke. So we get Mavis Staples, we get Elvis Costello, we get Rueben Blades, we get Tom blimmin' Waits and more. But, insofar as this song and piece is concerned, we get fellow (then) L.A. resident, Richard Thompson. It is his trademark guitar that creeps around that of Divid Hidalgo, and he gets to sing a verse or two.

Not an old folk song, it is nonetheless the oft told tale of the long distanced sweetheart, toiling far away, finally returning home for the anticipated reunion. But the ship, the Carlos Rey (King Charles) went down. Was there such a ship? If so, I can't find reference to one online, although there was a galleon that plied the seas of the Gulf of Mexico of that name. However, the lyrics suggest this a far smaller vessel, with fifteen migrant workers going down as they left their Californian work camps for their bodegas back home.

But how/why Richard Thompson? (And, yes, of course the earlier linked song, in the opening paragraph, is no accidental coincidence.) The casual listener might see little connection between the anglo-scots ex-Fairport "folkie" and the Angeleno conjunto and tex-mex fusions. Probably the same listeners with no ear to the 40 plus years post Fairport career this unassuming guitar maverick has had. His blistering lead guitar segues seamlessly alongside that of Hidalgo. Plus, the band have made no secret of their admiration for Thompson, with and without his old bandmates. They appeared on his 1995 tribute, Beat the Retreat with plaintive Down Where the Drunkards Roll.

 Down Where the Drunkards Roll

For something a tad livelier (aka louder), on the EP that later followed The Ride, Ride This, here's another Lobos do Thompson. Sadly, I can find no evidence of the compliment returned, but I wouldn't put it past him. Maybe someone should submit a request to his fabled all request shows?

Shoot Out the Lights

Finally, by way of a palate cleanser, and returning to the Carlos Rey and its watery demise, here's a bluegrass cover from the hallowed Pickin' On stable....

Wreck of the Carlos Rey

Risk a Ride on the Carlo Rey?

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