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Nick Castro and the Young Elders
"Come Into Our House"
Strange Attractors, 2006
    

A mystic is painted in the eyes; he's elusive, canny, and wistful at once, expressing with a croon the ken which coasts past logic and into unlit realms.

Nick Castro is a mystic. There can be no other explanation. Come Into Our House, Castro's third release with The Young Elders, opens to a weary Spanish guitar, its resigned notes confirmed in due time by the whispered pining of a tenor flute. From somewhere beyond, Castro descants in his hoarsely romantic baritone: "All manner of being/one falling leaf/descending disgraced/from the winding tree." So it begins.

Perpetuity pervades, yet each song finds its roots in our world; opener "Winding Tree" evokes a pueblo along the Mexican border, "Attar" feels lifted from a market in ancient Agra, and the instrumental waltz "Picolina" could be confessing forbidden love at a costume ball in Venice. These are just musings, of course. The virtue is that each listener will have their own. Is there a higher compliment than to credit an album with transporting us to extremes of imagination?

The chief pleasure of the hour-long release may be "One I Love," which begins like a funeral dirge, segues into racing piano, and bows low to the lilting Celtic vocals of Wendy Watson. Later, the brief "Standing on the Standing Stone" hints at a timeless credo residing in Castro's core. "It's not goodbye if we don't say so/It's just the time that's passing by." At once melancholy and simple, the lyrics introduce a lament of estrangement which resonates for its distance from maudlin phrasing.

As a regrettable footnote, the LP meanders to a close with two thirteen-minute ballads. The ambition is laudable, and elegance is retained, but the road home feels a bit like Shakespeare, had he written an Act VI to any of his tragedies wherein the surviving personae convene inside castle walls and rehash the prior action in lengthy soliloquies. Though the writing may inspire conversion, a disciple could be forgiven for the restlessness which stems from hearing what he already knows.

By Shane Ryan.
August 21, 2006

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