Friends of Dean Martinez | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Friends of Dean Martinez




The sting of sand blown against your face, the flap of bat-wing saloon doors . . . the slurp of a cool foofoo drink? On The Shadow of Your Smile (Sub Pop), Friends of Dean Martinez's 1995 debut, John Convertino and Joey Burns of Giant Sand joined Van Christian, Tom Larkins, and Bill Elm of Naked Prey (originally calling themselves Friends of Dean Martin) to concoct a version of lounge music with a distinctly southwestern twist. Elm's exquisite steel-guitar melodies and the unusual colors and textures of Convertino's vibraphone formed the core of their countrified instrumental pop, but with the punchy rhythm team of Christian on drums and Larkins on percussive detail they added up to something with considerably more magnitude than kitsch. Indeed, in developing its skewed take on lounge, the combo covered Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty" alongside standards like "Misty," French chanteur Charles Trenet's "I Wish You Love," and the disc's sentimental title track. But it was the group's originals, primarily penned by guitarist Burns, that proved its depth: the surfish simplicity of "Chunder," the Tortoiselike moodiness of "House of Pies," the perky shuffle of "Swamp Cooler." Burns and Convertino left the band under less than friendly circumstances last year and formed the duo Calexico; their second album, due next year on the local Quarterstick label, reportedly will include a number of songs originally written for Friends of Dean Martinez. So it's not clear what shape the group will take for this show--but as long as Elm has got his guit, the gettings will probably be good. Singer Jim White, whose recent record on Luaka Bop is not totally uninteresting, opens. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Lisa Johnson.

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