John Garcia - The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues - (8.5/10)
Published on February 5, 2017
A crackle in the fire, its flickering illuminations dance under the Milky Way. The air is crisp, the mountains like guardians, and all around you is still – still and quiet. As you get comfortable a howl punctures the silence: you see the eyes of the trickster glisten in the dark. Rushing towards you, the coyote suddenly lunges into the fire and bursts into a kaleidoscope of colour reaching far into the sky and pulsating from this light is the croon of a most distinctive voice (yes you have heard him before, across a span of thirty years in fact). Acoustic guitars baptise the land, and the legendary voice of John Garcia rings out: for you see, he is The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues.
The trickster is also the shapeshifter, and this is exactly what John Garcia has become: The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues is a purely unplugged record, a rhythmically charged hike through the acoustic desert, a journey through expertly crafted stripped-back song-writing. Not only does Garcia’s voice resonate effortlessly through these soundscapes, but his vocals sounds just as good as they ever have and more emotionally raw than before – songs like the bittersweet ‘Argelben II’, a rendition of the track first heard on his solo debut, and the thick strum-fest that is opener Kylie are testament to this. And it’s not just his voice: the textures painted deep into the wax are rich warm and vibrant, with layer upon layer of strumming picking and plucking, heard superbly towards the end of the ‘The Hollingsworth Session’.
The trickster is also the shapeshifter. Not only has Garcia proven he can craft heartfelt music outside what we would expect from him, but there are four Kyuss songs on this record which have been translated and transformed to fit this persona. Memorable slabs from this back catalogue including ‘Green Machine’ and ‘Gardenia’ take on a whole new personality when the riffs undergo the change to the unplugged realm. But you cannot take the desert out of desert rock, and all four opuses, including the already acoustic ‘Space Cadet’, still sound like the result of trips through the homeland Kyuss built this sound on. Perhaps the most impressive of these cuts is the aforementioned ‘Gardenia’, which soars on the slide guitar through the blue skies, and ‘El Rodeo’ with its heavily foreboding atmosphere through which Garcia’s from-the-gut vocals rupture from to the other side.
What makes The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues such a wonderful album is purely down to the craftmanship Garcia possesses. It’s not just any ol’ acoustic record: this is one written with flawless passion, with meticulous precision; this is a record showcasing a legend going from strength to strength, and that he is comfortable and adaptable. Garcia’s voice accommodates this space with prowess to the point in which you wonder why it has taken him so long to write and record such an album. His transformations of the Kyuss songs sit firmly amongst the rest of the material – nothing seems out of place here (except perhaps the decision to end the record on an instrumental) – and though many may bemoan that half of the record is given to these songs, it cannot be argued that the shapeshifting they have undergone is anything but stellar. Perhaps this album only works because it is John Garcia; perhaps if it was anyone else it would have fallen terribly short. Because he truly is the voice of the desert; he truly is the coyote.