Hired Guns Have Impressive Aim

As a for-hire rhythm section, John Convertino and Joey Burns have a Midas touch: The duo's moody, sensitive playing has burnished a dozen Giant Sand records and the best efforts from Friends of Dean Martinez, Richard Buckner, Victoria Williams and others. As Calexico, the pair (Burns on bass, guitar and vocals; Convertino playing percussion and vibes) make border music — and not just in the sense that their sound is shaped by the mix of Mexican and Anglo cultures in their hometown of Tucson, Ariz. Hot Rail is the third Calexico record, and both the most ambitious and refined. Yes, it echoes mariachi music, but it crosses other borders, too; on these frontiers, the lines dividing inspiration from influence, melody from ambience, and the genres of country, jazz and rock all blur like shifting sand.