A lo-fi hobbyist whose delicate, drowsy songs caught Sup Pop's attention three years ago, Sam Beam, aka Iron and Wine, enlists Calexico's core duo to revitalize seven home demos for a stopgap EP that plays to the strengths of everyone involved. And while each tune is available online in its stripped-down Iron and Wine incarnation, here Beam surrenders to foreign sonic elements that gather like ghosts in a border-crossing town. Lap steel and vibraphone can't help but underscore the Miami-bound folkie's melancholy outlook, whether he's singing about tired horses that curse in the night ("He Lays in the Reins") or incarceration, family style ("Prison on Route 41"). Besides the unlikely Vegas horn arrangements of "History of Lovers," the album's biggest surprise involves the sudden operatic vocals of Salvador Duran, wailing away in Spanish about missed opportunities like a Mexican Pavarotti. Kudos to Beam, an evolving and vital artist not afraid to spread his wings and try something new.
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