Sam Beam wasn't trying to rub it in when he quipped that he's a rare "three timer" on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series. Okay, maybe he was a little bit. But as is typical with the bearded, ultra low-key Iron & Wine frontman, he did it in the most gentle, loving way. Beam's soft jab at the expense of his old pals in Calexico came during a mesmerizing three-song set posted on Thursday (Aug. 1), that featured two songs from their recently released, long-in-the-works album Years to Burn and the title track to 2005's EP In the Reins.
The soothing-as-a-high-desert-sunset blended sound of Beam and Tucson, Arizona-bred Calexico springs to life on the jaunty "Father Mountain," which features Beam blending his lonesome whiskey vocals with Calexico singer/guitarist Joey Burns' as the pair strum acoustic guitars backed by Calexico drummer John Convertino and trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela, former Soul Coughing bassist Sebastian Steinberg and keyboardist Robert Burger.
"It's fun to be back, isn't it Joey?" Beam razzes before handing lead vocal duties over to Burns for the hushed, campfire reverie "Midnight Sun."
"Yeah, she shook the ground (Shook the ground)/ With every breath (Every breath)/ Tossed his troubles aside (Troubles aside)/ Made a shrine of every mess/ Well, a woman appeared (Woman appeared)/ With a guillotine smile (Guillotine smile)/ She handed him a rose (Handed him a rose)/ Then he turned to stone," Burns sings in a near whisper over Burger's slide guitar and Convertino's brushed drumming.
The set ends with the shimmering "He Lays in the Reins," with Beam — who previously played Tiny Desk with Iron & Wine and Jessica Hoop — melding his signature forlorn vocals with Burns' high croon and a Spanish interlude from Valenzuela.
Watch the Tiny Desk concert below.