album reviews

David Wax Museum
Everything Is Saved
self-released (2011)

Kindred spirits: DeVotchKa, Calexico.

If there was any question about the Mexican influence on David Wax Museum's brand of Mexo-Americana folk, the instrument credits for "Everything Is Saved" should clear it up. In addition to the expected guitar, fiddle and piano, the album boasts the stringed instruments jarana jarocha and jarana huasteca as well as a quijada (donkey jawbone).

The group's architect, David Wax, also takes inspiration from the music of Mexico, basing the up-tempo "Yes, Maria, Yes" on a traditional son jarocho tune and singing a translated version of the spicy "Chuchumbe."

The group's original material is less compelling. Album opener "Born With a Broken Heart" has a scampering rhythm, but the repetitive choppiness of its chorus makes the song tiresome. Wax's disconnected croon breaks any emotional connection with the lyrics on "The Least I Can Do," producing a tedium that even a mournful fiddle melody can't shake.

Sonically, the most interesting part of David Wax Museum is not the group's namesake but its other half, Suz Slezak, whose harmonies soften Wax's serious tone. Her vocals ease the solemnity of "That's Not True," temper the monotony of "Lavender Street" and create a pleading tenderness in "Wait for Me." Wax can take credit for writing the songs, but Slezak is what makes "Everything Is Saved" listenable.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 9 September 2011
.: Everything Is Saved on