Calexico, the Tucson, AZ-based duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino, and Iron & Wine, the project of Durham, NC-based singer songwriter Sam Beam, have over the past two decades become two of the most important recording artists in folk rock of the last twenty years. In 2005 the two bands joined together to record an EP, In the Reins, a record which combined their talents perfectly and sits as one of the best entries in both artists’ catalogs. The two groups went their separate ways after that, but as it turns out they were only waiting for the timing to work out to come together again. Last June they finally released another collaborative album, Years to Burn, which continues right where that previous record left off.
The most immediately striking thing about the band live are the vocal harmonies and duets of Beam and Burns. As the individual primary singers of their respective groups, they normally tend to be heard as solo performers, and singing together adds new depth to their sound.
The lengthy show saw the group playing not only songs from their joint records (with five songs each on the setlist from In the Reins and Years to Burn), but also taking on a few tracks from each band’s individual catalog, chosen by the other. Beam chose “Sunken Waltz,” “Crystal Frontier,” “Glimpse,” and “Flores y Tamales” (with lead vocals from Calexico’s Jacob Valenzuela) from Calexico, while Burns chose “Boy With a Coin” and “Naked as We Came” from Iron & Wine. While all of that would have certainly been enough by itself, the band filled out the set with a few surprising covers (Lucina Williams’ “I Lost It,” Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and a slowed-down, countrified version of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses”).
If you missed them on this round, the combined group of Calexico and Iron & Wine will be hitting the road again this summer on a co-headlining tour with Andrew Bird. For fans of either band, it’s a show not to miss.
Frances Quinlan, singer and guitarist of Philadelphia indie band Hop Along, opened the show, playing songs from her recently released debut solo album Likewise.
Calexico and Iron & Wine setlist
Follow the Water He Lays in the Reins Father Mountain Red Dust I Lost It Sunken Waltz Boy With a Coin In Your Own Time Flores y Tamales Naked As We Came
Crystal Frontier On the Road Again The Bitter Suite Bring on the Dancing Horses Midnight Sun Sixteen, Maybe Less Glimpse History of Lovers