When I was asked to review John Garcia’s latest project, ‘The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues’, I went in as a brand-new listener. I know of Garcia and his decades-long career of bringing stoner rock to the masses. But I had never listened to KYUSS or Slo-Burn, so Garcia as a solo artist was new and exciting for me. I hit play, fully expecting to hear a heavy, distorted sound fill the air… and the opening notes really surprised me.
What I heard was an acoustic, blues-infused, raw experience with a sound that feels like it’s emanating from a basement somewhere in the desert. The opening track, “Kylie”, was released in December, and I can see why this was chosen as Garcia’s first taste of the album to share with the world. It has a charm to it that lures the listener into the next song, the next story. Tempo changes, high-pitch acoustic strumming, and Garcia’s haunting voice makes for an alluring, addictive sound.
The nine-track album covers a diverse set of songs. Garcia is joined by musicians Ehren Groban on acoustic guitar, Greg Saenz on percussion, and Mike Pygmie on bass. What a sound they create together! I’ve discovered lately that I am partial to softer sound, and the recent ‘unplugged’ sound that’s made a bit of a comeback has been a great aural experience for me. I know that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea in the metal world, but it will strike a chord with many who have enjoyed Garcia’s projects in the past.
I really enjoy Garcia’s vocals on this project. I like his diversity; from a wailing wild animal on tracks like “The Hollingsworth Session” and “El Rodeo”, to the soft charming croon on tracks like “Green Machine” and “Gardenia”. There seems to be a balance between an untamed quality and a softness throughout this record; something I imagine would be difficult to get right. Garcia does a great job of maintaining this balance.
This album feels like it should be listened to on a road trip through the U.S. desert in a convertible Mustang. It feels like it’s a journey that Garcia & Co. are taking us on, and we’re in the back seat enjoying the ride. What’s consistent with this image is the album’s cover art, which has something of a 70’s inspired, liberating style, with an almost groovy feeling about it. A coyote is the star of the cover, howling at the moon that’s illuminated with a map of the cosmos within it. I feel like it should be all raggedy with loved, worn edges, hiding out in a retro vinyl store.
Highlights of the record for me include “The Hollingsworth Session”; that has a great sound behind it. The addition of a piano creates a new depth to the song and really rounds it out. It also creates a bit of drama as Garcia is able to flip effortlessly between his wild and soft vocals. I love the harmonizing guitars towards the end; they complement the piano’s darker, dramatic feel.
I really enjoy opening song, “Kylie”. It’s a great song with a great story to share. The change mid-song has me imagining some kind of country western high noon cowboy stand-off, with Garcia sneering on the sidelines as he sings “stoke your courage, well after it all, you may fall…”
The other major highlight for me is “Court Order”, the final song on the record. It is an instrumental, stripped right down, playing a complicated piece to end the album experience. The guitar has a real bluesy sound to it, with a good combination of finger-picking, strumming, and timing changes to keep the attention of its audience. Its final notes send a farewell to the listener, as it disappears into silence.
‘The Coyote that Spoke in Tongues’ is a project that Garcia fans will really appreciate. I think it’s a brave effort for artists to set aside a craft they’ve practiced for years – that magic formula that’s been tweaked and developed to perfect over time – to try something new. What Garcia & Co. have created with this record is excellent. It’s full of life and experience, tales to tell, and scars to show. It invites the listener to hitch a ride with them and listen to those stories as they drive on through the lonely, arid desert.