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In the Reins - EP

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Editors’ Notes

From the opening strains of In the Reins, one realizes this was a collaboration waiting to happen. Calexico’s sweeping desert landscape music is the perfect background for Sam Beam’s brand of lonely, ruminative and literary musings delivered in his wispy, gentle voice.  (Beam reportedly approached Calexico to back him on the debut Iron & Wine album, but conflicting schedules intervened.) Apologies to Calexico should they take umbrage with being labeled a “back-up band” here, but there is no other accurate label, and the marriage of the two produces some great listening. Beam’s poetic, spare, lyrics (he wrote all the songs here) are nurtured by the richness and depth of the Arizona band’s musical constructs, with a multitude of instruments — guitars, cellos, marimbas, pedal steel, keyboards, trumpets and more — acting as punctuation and emotional flourishes in the storytelling. Standouts include the astoundingly beautiful opener, “He Lays in the Reins,” with it slow layering of guitars and operatic interlude; the relaxed, steady guitar/drum backbeat of “History of Lovers,” giving off a faint Tom Petty vibe (very faint) and leading to some lively horns and piano; and “16, Maybe Less,” a wistful look back at a first love. It ends with the airy, floating “Dead Man’s Will,” delicate layers of breathless vocals atop tiptoeing marimbas. Fans of both artists will find something to love here.

Customer Reviews

I&W Steps It Up

This is not your typical Iron & Wine offering, but given the headway Beam made with the instrumentation and aggressiveness on the Woman King EP, it's no surprise this is where he went next. Perhaps some hardcore fans will miss the hush of one man and his guitar, but for this somewhat casual fan, it's a wonderful addition to the repertoire. Lush, beautiful, and Calexio gives it a bit of country flavor that we haven't seen from ol' Sam before. Highly recommended, one of the best releases of 2005. Right up there with Wolf Parade.

A Great Blend of Two Really Good Bands

I was both a Calexico fan and an Iron & Wine fan when I heard tell of this release, and I must say, I was not disappointed. 1. He Lays In the Reins- really easy on the ears, very chill, Calexico sound. Beam's voice is really complemented by the music. 2. Prison On Route 41- Sounds like something that could have come from Creek Drank the Cradle, cleaned up with a reverby snare and a little more country-cooing. 3. History of Lovers- very likeable, very active. 4. Red Dust- has a sort of darker sound blended with a jazzy organ, could have come from Woman King. 5. 16, Maybe Less- my favorite song from the album. It's got Sam Beam's hushed vocal thing going, and the music is really moving and subtle. One of my all-time favorite songs. 6. Burn That Broken Bed- the horns are fun. 7. Dead Man's Will- by the time I get to this song I usually go back to 16, Maybe Less, so I have listened to this song less than the rest. But it's quite good. Really, very much like the Trapeze Swinger single.


I am a huge fan of Iron & Wine and Calexico. When I saw this album I thought, "Wow I wasn't expecting this, this should be good." That was after I heard the live recording of the Shins with Iron & Wine singing "New Slang." In that song there was a beautiful harmony of the two vocalists. I expected the same with this album. But no. Its pretty much Iron & Wine singing with a Tex-Mex back up band. To me, what made Calexico so special is their outstanding vocalist. I was hoping to hear him overlapping with Iron & Wine. Maybe next time.


Formed: Tucson, AZ

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Calexico take their name from a town on the border of California and Mexico, and the title certainly fits the band, who've been mixing musical approaches and cultural perspectives with elan ever since group leaders Joey Burns and John Convertino began working together. Fusing the dusty sounds of the American Southwest with spaghetti western soundtracks, Mexican mariachi themes, vintage surf music, cool...
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