Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Miked - Live Reviews from Issue #61 Jan-Feb 2006

CalexicoIron & Wine

Moore Theater (Seattle, WA), October 22, 2005

Though it was only an EP, the Iron & Wine/Calexico disc In The Reins was one of the year’s most anticipated and intriguing releases — one that, impressively, lived up to the hype. The artistic grounds for collaboration were ideal: Iron & Wine leader Sam Beam is an uncommonly engaging singer and songwriter whose mostly minimalist work has at times suggested possibilities for grander arrangements, while Calexico is a masterfully versatile and tasteful instrumental combo that stands to benefit from an infusion of quality original material.

Their fall tour was an equally auspicious endeavor, allowing for individual sets by both artists plus brief special-guest appearances in each city before culminating with a ten-piece tour de force highlighting material from In The Reins. If it wasn’t quite the Rolling Thunder Revue, it was at least an admirably assembled rippling rumble.

Most everyone missed the Seattle show’s first special guest, Vancouver band Pink Mountaintops, as they went on about 20 minutes before the advertised showtime; such were the pitfalls of trying to accommodate a smorgasbord of artists before the Moore Theater’s 11 p.m. curfew. Calexico took the stage at 8:10 and played for a half-hour, its seven-song set highlighted by a dramatic new song, “All Systems Red”, apparently destined for a J.D. Foster-produced disc due out in spring 2006. Founders Joey Burns and John Convertino led a supporting cast that incorporated everything from trumpet to vibes to keyboards to pedal steel, with some of the musicians switching instruments between songs.

David Bazan of Pedro The Lion provided the next special-guest surprise, turning in a four-song solo acoustic set that was well-received if not revelatory. Iron & Wine followed, beginning with a solo acoustic turn by Beam on “Sunset Soon Forgotten” that served as a nice segue from Bazan’s set. Beem proceeded to build up the backing crew with careful deliberation: sister Sarah Beam added backing vocals on “Muddy Hymnal”, then drummer Troy Tague joined for “Jezebel”. Soon enough the stage was overflowing with two drummers (Tague teaming with Calexico’s Convertino), bassist Volker Zander, Sarah on fiddle, and Paul Niehaus on steel.

Beam vacillated between bluesy, riff-dominated tunes such as “Free Until They Cut Me Down” and gracefully understated numbers such as “Naked As We Came”. The peak of Iron & Wine’s 45-minute set was “The Trapeze Swinger” (from the soundtrack to In Good Company), a hypnotic eight-verse epic that put the Beam siblings’ instinctive harmonies front-and-center.

Though several members of both bands had been commingling for a good while by this point, the formal “Iron & Wine/Calexico” segment began when Burns announced, “We’d like to start off with the ‘He Lays In The Reins’ song” (the EP’s leadoff track). The subsequent sonic shift was a sensible step from Iron & Wine’s delivery — of a similar piece, but upping the ante as the band expanded to its full roll call of ten. (The “roll call” was literal; when Beam counted only eight members present, he enlisted the audience to shout out the names of Niehaus and Jacob Valenzuela, effectively summoning them to the stage.)

By then it was 10:15, allowing the full ensemble 45 minutes to finish out the show. They squeezed in five songs from In The Reins, with varying degrees of success: “History Of Lovers”, by far the catchiest song on disc, was a bass-heavy disappointment live, but “Prison On Route 41″, with Burns taking the lead vocal supported by sublime harmonies from Beam, was magical.

Two covers offered a deeper glimpse into the common ground that bonds these two acts. Their take on the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” benefited from a royally rich arrangement crowned by trumpet and steel; it echoed a classic version of the song recorded fifteen years ago by a similarly brilliant collaboration between British folk chanteuse June Tabor and the hard-charging Celtic-trad Oyster Band. Finally, Beam and company — joined by the night’s final special guest, Sup Pop songstress Rosie Thomas — sent everyone home with a resplendent reading of the Willie Nelson hit “Always On My Mind”, twisting its melody ever so slightly, but staying true to the song’s simple story and spirit.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #61 Jan-Feb 2006

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Willie Sugarcapps and The Mulligan Brothers Together for the First Time at Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm
    April 20, 2014 was the last Sunday Social in the third season at The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, Alabama. If the season had to end, Cathe Steele closed it out the right way with The Mulligan Brothers and Willie Sugarcapps playing together for the first time.  It was a… […]
  • Neil Young Surprises Fans and Sends A Letter Home
    "It's better to burn out than to fade away," Neil Young so memorably sang in his "Hey Hey, My, My (Into the Black)," the song that famously provides the counterpart to his "My, My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" on his Rust Never Sleeps album (1979). Well, Young himself will neither burn out nor fade away nor rust nor sleep. Th […]
  • John Nemeth - Memphis Grease (Album Review)
    You could have just as well called John Nemeth's latest release Soul from Spudsville. No matter what the location, everything the Boise, Idaho native touches turns to soul. This one he calls Memphis Grease because it was recorded there in his new adopted homebase, slathered with boilin' Memphis guitar and punched up with Stax style fatback horns, b […]
  • Dan Amor - Rainhill Trials (Album Review)
    Subtle and Sweet folk music from Wales              Most people reading this review will probably be of an age where they have pretty defined music tastes and don’t have the time or inclination to readily discover anything too radically new. I too am a bit like that; but as a music reviewer I can still discover new genres that can spin my preconceptions 359 […]
  • Jimbo Mathus on Americana Music Show #188
    On episode 188 of the Americana Music Show, Jimbo Mathus plays tracks from Dark Night Of The Soul, talks about going from "sepia tones to ultrachrome" and the "crazy Mississippi white boy chain."  Also in this episode, indie rock from Bobby Bare Jr., heartland rock from Jonny Two Bags, country rock from Rodney Crowell, road tripo music fr […]
  • The War on Drugs: From Dylan to Dire Straits, By Way of Attrition
    Whether on the basketball court or onstage, when two supreme talents join forces, it tends to make things better. Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen, LeBron James needs Dwyane Wade, McCartney clearly needed Lennon, and Salt would be a run-of-the mill condiment without Pepa. But there are exceptions to such… […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter