Calexico and Iron & Wine – Years to Burn (4 stars)

Calexico and Iron & Wine – Years to Burn

The first official hook-up between Calexico and Sam Beam in 14 years is timed to perfection

Ahead of the latest collaboration between two of US indie-folk's staples, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam reckoned that this album had an 'ambiguous title, because life is complicated'. Listening to the eight tracks from Years to Burn, the first official hook-up between Calexico (Joey Burns and John Convertino) and Beam since 2005, it's clear that the world has the capacity to be a much more straight-forward place where lovely vocal melodies and nifty chord progressions can reign supreme.

Recorded over four December days in Nashville, there's a detectable country undercurrent to the record with opener 'What Heaven's Left' and 'Father Mountain' both spinning quickly into joyfully tuneful Jayhawks-esque stomps. 'Midnight Sun' sandwiches those two with a slightly more meditative slice of alt-folk that finally powers over the line via a triumphant jam.

Providing a spirited change of pace, short instrumental mood piece 'Outside El Paso' could be the result of Tom Waits getting the Ouija board out to channel the spirit of Miles Davis, while the CD's other major leftfield contribution, 'The Bitter Suite', is a zig-zagging eight-minute epic which has more gear shifts than 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

'Follow the Water' harks back to yonder folky times by hinting at classic Neil Young with its early strumming before becoming its very own highly contemporary thing. Closer 'In Your Own Time' sounds like the kind of swinging shanty number you'd end a good night on, and its inclusion here certainly makes it appear that the boys had plenty fun making this record. Perhaps they might not leave it as long before booking studio time together in the future.

Since that 2005 EP, 'In the Reins', the years which have lapsed between collaborations have been mainly due to circumstances rather than any sense of enmity. A lot of indie-folk water has flowed under both of their bridges in that interim period, but if timing is everything, then Calexico and Iron & Wine have synchronised matters to perfection.

Out now on City Slang.

Calexico and Iron & Wine

The ninth studio album from Calexico, The Thread That Keeps Us is a timely snapshot of the Arizona-bred band: a family portrait capturing their stylistic variety and unpredictability while still findingsolace in limitless creativity. In bringing the album to life, vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns and drummerJohn Convertino…