NOAH ADAMS, host:

And now a collaboration from the musical borderlands of Florida and Arizona. Tucson, Arizona, is home to the band Calexico and its Southwestern-flavored rock. The band Iron & Wine is from Miami, Florida, and actually is just one person who has a quiet, rootsy sound. Recently Calexico and Iron & Wine got together to make a new album. It's called "In the Reins." Music critic John Brady takes a listen.

(Soundbite of music)

JOHN BRADY reporting:

In 2001, Sam Beam, who records under the name Iron & Wine, and Calexico's Joey Burns and John Convertino kicked around the idea of collaborating on an album.

(Soundbite of music)

BRADY: They didn't find the time for the project until late 2004, when Beam packed up his guitar and followed the ribbons of road to Tucson, Calexico's home base. There he recorded "In the Reins" with Burns and Convertino.

(Soundbite of "Sixteen, Maybe Less")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Beyond the ridge to the left, you asked me what I want between the trees and cicadas singing around the pond. I spent an hour with you. Should I want anything else?

BRADY: This is a country album, not country as in, `I lost my truck, and my wife hates me because my girlfriend's a better hunter' country. It's country because it's so solidly grounded in rural life. The album brims with rural and natural images: wide-open skies, ridges, cicadas in the trees, birds on branches and, in this song, a swamp blues number, red dust.

(Soundbite of "Red Dust")

CALEXICO and IRON & WINE: (Singing in unison) Dust gets dead, the sun gone down. Danny's boy lies in the ground. Guitar on the dead boy's chest. Devil's granting a last request.

BRADY: "In the Reins" draws on the strengths of both bands.

(Soundbite of music)

BRADY: Sam Beam started his musical career in his bedroom. There, he made low-fi tapes of his songs and defined what would become his musical signature: telling stories filled with striking imagery and singing in hush, cottony tones. Here's a song from Beam's 2004 album, "Our Endless Numbered Days," which uses the evocative and slightly macabre image of teeth in the grass to suggest how death haunts our daily life.

(Soundbite of "Teeth in the Grass")

Mr. SAM BEAM: (Singing) ...fast, when all tomorrows are gone, there will be teeth in the grass, there will be teeth in the grass, there will be...

BRADY: Burns' and Convertino's decision to name themselves after a US border town is apt.

(Soundbite of music)

BRADY: They've become known for creatively blending indie rock with the sounds of the Southwest and Mexico. With their command of different musical traditions, Calexico weaves a rich sonic tapestry. Its multiple musical threads shimmer as a fitting backdrop for Beam's stories. The depth and richness of the music amplifies the depth and richness of Beam's lyrics.

(Soundbite of "Burn That Broken Bed")

Unidentified Man #2: How do you bust the clouds? Press on your back been hanging in the air.

BRADY: I left the small town because wide-open skies and drawn-out days, while beautiful, often bled into boredom. I like the fast-paced, man-made rhythms of the city and living chockablock with my neighbors. So I don't naturally gravitate toward albums that chime with enthusiasm for the American pastoral. Yet after just a couple of listens, "In the Reins" had me.

(Soundbite of "A History Of Lovers")

Mr. BEAM: (Singing) Louise only got from me innocent poetry, although she played to not listen. But still I can hear myself speak as if no one else ever could offer the same.

BRADY: Beam sings of innocent poetry. I like this album because it's often poetic, but it's not innocent, it's not naive. On one song, it slyly revels in the pleasures of a first sexual adventure. On other songs, it rings equally with admirable emotions such as love and less admirable ones such as jealousy. It knows that the rural life is anything but the simple life.

(Soundbite of "A History Of Lovers")

Mr. BEAM: (Singing) Coddle some men, they'll remember you fittingly. Cut 'em, they'll come back for more.

BRADY: It's enough to make this city boy pine for an empty dirt road, a cold, quiet night and a starry sky.

ADAMS: The album is called "In the Reins." Calexico and Iron & Wine are on tour together now. John Brady writes about popular culture from his home in Santa Monica, California.

(Soundbite of "A History Of Lovers")

Mr. BEAM: (Singing) I hope that she's happy I'm blamed for the death of the man she found better than me.

ADAMS: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.