Americana is an umbrella term for roots-based musics native to the states, such as country and Western, bluegrass and folk. Despite vast differences, Americana acts tend to join forces, creating juxtaposed yet cohesive shows. It wouldn’t be unusual to find truck-driving country, indie follk and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band all cozying up under one roof. The appeal—be it pastoral, nostalgic or simply unplugged—crosses demographics, too. The music is usually suitable for grandpas, babies, and everyone in between in almost any kind of venue.
New Mexico has become fertile loins, birthing a bounty of Americana music. Noted among its twangy spawn: The Saltine Ramblers. In 2004, prior to the area's corn-pone explosion, the band formed in Los Lunas.
"I don't know if we made a conscious decision to do it—those were the instruments we had," says guitarist and vocalist Kevin Strange over beers at a Downtown Albuquerque watering hole. "The scene ebbs and flows—I remember a time when punk rock was enormous in Albuquerque," he adds. "[This] scene's just gotten better and better ... it's an amalgam of so many different kinds of music."
The pliability of the format has afforded The Saltine Ramblers generous wiggle room. After a folksy inception, the band gradually began to go more country. "Various lineup changes over the years definitely influenced the direction we were going at the time," says Strange. "In the last year or so, we've really settled into a certain sound that will probably be more enduring than anything we've played around with before."
Though The Saltine Ramblers previously released a series of lo-fi home recordings (complete with pesky howling dog sounds), the band counts its forthcoming release as its first bona fide album. Arroyo Borealis was recorded in April at Frogville Studio in Santa Fe, which has worked with the likes of Joe West, ThaMuseMeant, Boris McCutcheon and Santa Fe All-Stars.
“Frogville makes all of the best records," says guitarist and vocalist Cory Minefee. "They're old friends, too."
Wrapped in an attractive package with art by Christoph Knerr (Mess Explosion Comics), the album contains 12 lovingly produced, precisely executed songs unaltered by postproduction. Originals and covers intermingle, and tracks sway from upbeat, fiddle-driven ditties to slower, melancholy ballads. It feels earthy and sentimental, but also fun—apropos for a band which has been known to dress up like Klingons or members of a barbershop quintet.
"The thing about The Saltine Ramblers,” Minefee says, “is that we may take our music pretty seriously—we try to make good music—but we don't take ourselves so seriously."