In the Reins

Not every songwriter is a born bandleader. Iron and Wine (a.k.a. Sam Beam), who has relocated from Florida to Dripping Springs, originally chose to go it alone, and the sparse nature of his early recordings gave his ambitious lyrics, fairly or not, a sheen of preciousness. No longer. The tumbleweed-border rock and roll of Tucson’s Calexico breathes fire into seven of Beam’s absorbing tales on In the Reins (Overcoat). Beam aims for the richness of a short story in his writing yet leaves key details unexplained; it’s a secret to his allure. While the opener tries hard, maybe too hard, to find a wild-plains, Cormac McCarthy vibe, Beam and Calexico’s Joey Burns harmonize beautifully, and throughout this all-too-brief recording, their instincts are sound. Spooky fare like “Red Dust” and the murderous “A History of Lovers” is given just the right amount of drama and drive.

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