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Friends of Dean Martinez

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A Southwestern alternative rock supergroup of sorts, Arizona's Friends of Dean Martinez features past and present members of Giant Sand, Calexico, and Naked Prey. Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb, though not a member of the group, plays guest keyboards on their debut album, The Shadow of Your Smile, a surprisingly retro set of guitar-based instrumentals inspired by instrumental and surf rock of the late '50s and early '60s. With plenty of lounge music and desert country guitar twang thrown in, it's certainly retro in feel, but not revivalist; with Bill Elm's keening steel guitar at the forefront and occasional insertions of found sound and experimental bits, they evoke open dusty landscapes with wit and, one suspects, a bit of tongue-in-cheek irony. At any rate, it's a refreshing change from the often too-serious alternative rock paths that the musicians pursue in their full-time bands. Retrograde followed in 1997, and two years later the Friends returned with Atardecer. A Place in the Sun appeared in early 2000. The group switched to Narnack for 2003's On the Shore and the following year's Random Harvest, and also released Under the Waves on the German imprint Glitterhouse. Aero released the concert album Live at Club 2 in 2005. ~ Richie Unterberger