Old Californio releases 'Songs From The Sea of Cortez'

Article Contributed by KG Music Press | Published on Saturday, December 12, 2020

From Justin Smith, Old Californio Drummer:  "OC's Songs From the Sea of Cortez is out on Bandcamp today.We started this album back in 2012 (I think?). Cleared out the furniture on Raymond Dr., set up the kit and piano in the dining room and living room for tracking, master control room was John Hartman's full mobile set up (an engineering monster) taking up central residence in a spare bedroom with preamps and gear surging the power of the old 1920’s Spanish, amps in the back room or bathroom as I recall. It was the just four of us at this point - Rich Dembowski, Woody Aplanalp, Jason Chesney and myself. Spent the time working out the tunes, trying to recover from a hard drive crash that eliminated some of the original home demos Rich had recorded, so some of the original reed arrangements got lost. But we spent the time in the late spring of I think 2013 over the course of two days tracking all the numbers.

However, as times go we didn't realize it in the moment but we were hitting the end of that whatever that era was for us and as soon as the initial tracking was done along with a few passes at overdubbing things sorta ground to a halt. The band had been running for 7 years or so by that point and for whatever reason we just lost a bit of steam and it ended up never being finished. That was ok, it was a long run, a good run, but we’d reached a point where it seemed obvious that we needed to take some time away from everything, so we did (apart from an occasional one off gig out at Alex Pelton’s Bit and Spur).

Fast forward 7 or 8 years (or whatever it's been) to this weird bizarre 2020 with its pandemic madness. All of a sudden there's a strangely renewed energy and life and impetus to get this album finished. We’d put together a new tune or two for the Bit n Spur shows, Woody was developing Bonsai Universe, and Rich had done a solo thing here or there, Jason and I collaborated with each other at one point or another, and an occasional song circle with I See Hawks in LA as they worked out their White Cross album, as I recall.

As the idea of finishing the album started to generate traction and it was really Woody and Rich who were the main driving engines, they revived this album from its longs slumber, tracking vocals and overdubs from Woody's studio in SG, developing the finishing elements of the tunes. Jason Chesney did a little remote tracking from up on the Nesmith Ranch in Monterey, while I added vocals and percussion here and there at Woody's studio (pre-covid) and then at my home studio (just a garage / drum/ laundry room in truth) in Altadena. Woody & Rich worked with a host of other contributors adding additional overdubs with reclaimed reeds, fiddle and other noteworthy accoutrement.

So here’s what the end result is – Songs from the Sea of Cortez. Long overdue, but ultimately made in the time it was meant to be made in. Have a listen and hope you enjoy it."

The band has also newly released two singles, “Cantico Suite” and “Old Californio’s Lonesome Rambling Ways". https://fb.watch/2dqyr-q2sz


From the twang of Bakersfield and the soaring harmonies of the canyon to the distant sounds of mission and ranchero, the music of Old Californio is rock as sweeping as the rolling oak savannas punctuated with the poetry of John Steinbeck and Robinson Jeffers. It’s not just the sound of a western state but the melody of the western state of mind.