Iron and Wine/Calexico

We'll admit it -- part of the appeal of that first Iron and Wine record was that here was a dude who was a dead ringer for our beardy friend Metal Mark Thompson but sang wispy wood-nymphish fairyfolk accompanied on little more than a faraway-sounding acoustic guitar. That's funny shit. Mostly, though, we have no explanation for why a guy whispering multitracked Simon & Garfunkel/CSN songs would suddenly captivate someone (namely us) who fucking hates Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby and Stills and Nash.

In round two, Sam Beam fucked everything up by attempting to pull off the same trick with a band. It mostly sucked. Especially since everyone had already downloaded most of its songs in whispery folk demo form. And even more especially because no one in the band could figure out how to play around the whisper. Even before the record came out, Beam was telling interviewers he probably wouldn't do it again.

Clearly, dude needs to lock himself in a room and make a record, right? Not so fast. As everyone knows by now, he teamed up with sxsw desert-rock morricones Calexico, who magically put the brush back in his sage. On album they un-paralyze his lullabyes, falling softly in behind him like Indian scouts. And live, they goad him into raising his voice above sotto voce on covers of the Stones, the Velvets, and the motherfucking Willie Nelson. If you have to guess which one works best, you don't get the concept.

We cannot wait for this show tonight at Avalon. Here's a little taste of why, courtesy of NPR and So Much Silence, recorded live at the 9:30 club in DC on November 30:

LISTEN: Iron & Wine and Calexico, "All Tomorrow's Parties" (mp3)
LISTEN: Iron & Wine and Calexico, "Wild Horses" (mp3)
LISTEN: Iron & Wine and Calexico, "Always on My Mind" (mp3)

or . . .

DOWNLOAD: the entire Iron & Wine and Calexico set (mp3, via NPR)
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