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


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

  • SummerTyne Americana Festival #9 - Jumping Hot Club Stage (Gateshead, U.K. - July 18-20, 2014)
    Wow, it’s taken nearly two weeks for me to get my breath back after another frantic and wonderful SummerTyne Americana Festival. As I say every year, the crowds turn up not knowing anyone on the Jumping Hot Club Outside stage and go away with their favourite new artist of the year. Starting at noon on Friday, the outside stage hosted seven local acts, all wi […]
  • What Happens When a Band on the Rise Finds Out Its Name Is an Obscure Racial Stereotype? Meet Parsonsfield (Formerly Poor Old Shine).
    For Poor Old Shine, it started with a song… a traditional prison work song of the American South, called “Ain’t No Cane on This Brazos.” It’s been interpreted by everyone from Dylan and the Band, to the Low Anthem, Lyle Lovett and the Wood Brothers. And it was the song in one of the great scenes in the movie “Festival Express,” as a completely blotto Rick Da […]
  • The Post-Newport Earthquake: Watkins Family Hour
    Did you feel it? That's what everybody in Los Angeles asks each other whenever a shake or quake rattles and rolls through the valleys and flatlands. Sometimes there's just a release of pressure beneath the crust, and other times it's an up and down jolt that lasts only a second. And then you forget about it. Until the next time.  Sunday night […]
  • Johnny Winter - True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story (Album Review)
    “This music proves that a white man with white hair can really play the blues,” Pete Townsend says in the booklet that accompanies True To the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story, the four-CD box set retrospective of Winter's career just out on Columbia /Legacy. But age had nothing to do with Winter's look or sound. Due to his albinism, Winter's ha […]
  • Americana Music Show Episode #200 Tribute to the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill music scene
    On episode 200 of the Americana Music Show, I pay tribute to local bands and songwriters in the Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh NC area.  This week features over 30 local artists from the area including John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff, Lyn Blakey, Jefferson Hart and Ghosts of Old North State, Mandolin Orange, Jon Shain, Radar's Clowns Of Se […]
  • Chris Isaak's Life Beyond the Sun
    In 2011, Chris Isaak took the long overdue step of recording an album at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. It wasn't just any album, it was faithful interpretations of classic songs by his musical mentors and heroes: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It didn’t take much of a leap of imagination to predict that the album would be […]

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