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      Calexico and Iron & Wine in Saxapahaw

      • Calexico and Iron & Wine Photo #1
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      June 18, 2019

      Tuesday   8:00 PM

      1711 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road
      Saxapahaw, North Carolina 27340

      Calexico and Iron & Wine

      with Daughter of Swords
      Iron & Wine and Calexico first made an artistic connection with In the Reins, the 2005 EP that brought together Sam Beam, Joey Burns, John Convertino and friends. The acclaimed collaboration introduced both acts to wider audiences and broadened the younger Beams artistic horizons, culminating in a joint tour in the tradition of Bob Dylans Rolling Thunder Revue.Their metaphorical roads diverged in the years that followed, but they kept in touch and cross-pollinated where they could. Burns cropped up on Iron & Wines 2007 album Shepherds Dog; Beam sang on Calexicos Carried to Dust (2008) and Edge of the Sun (2015); steel guitarist Paul Niehaus, a longtime Calexico sideman, joined Beams touring band. They played a benefit showed together in New York in 2013 and occasionally shared festival stages for a song or two. Although they often talked about rekindling their collaboration in the studio and on the stage, it wasnt until last year that their schedules aligned.The result, Years to Burn, cant help but be different from In the Reins. Back then, Calexico entered the studio with a long list of previous collaborations (first in Giant Sand, then backing the likes of Victoria Williams and Richard Buckner) and the knowledge that they loved Sams voice and his songs, but wondering if his material was so complete and self-contained that it lacked a way in, so hushed and delicate that it might be overwhelmed. For his part, Beam had been intimidated by their virtuosic playing and their deep comfort in an encyclopedic array of styles. In my mind, I was a guy who knew three chords and recorded in a closet, Sam says. They were playing big stages and were superb musicians.Those fears had been dispelled quickly. Calexico was bowled over by Beams many talents: The arranging, the writing, his sense of rhythm, the quality of his vocalsand then theres the experimental side of Sam, Joey says. Im from a jazz background in high school, trained classically in college, and played punk and garage rock in my twenties before I landed with Giant Sand. That variety and that openness is so important to me. And with Sam, he was so open to it in his songs.They were the perfect band at the perfect time for me, Sam adds. I loved all their different sounds. Theyre musical anthropologists, not regurgitating but absorbing what they discover. Nearly 15 years on, coming back to the project has to do with acknowledging how much impact the first record had for me in my life.When Beam, Burns and Convertino reconvened in Nashville for four days of recording in December 2018, nobody was keen to retread old ground. They even joked about calling the record Nostalgias A Bitch. The challenge was to make it new. The change of venuefrom Calexicos home base of Tucson, where In the Reins was trackedwas one part of the effort.Together with Niehaus, veteran Calexico trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela and frequent Beam cohorts Rob Burger (Tin Hat Trio) on piano and Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Fiona Apple) on bass, they settled in at the Sound Emporium, a fabled studio founded in the sixties by Cowboy Jack Clement and the site of countless landmark sessions in country and rock over the ensuing decades.Another added ingredient was engineer Matt Ross-Spang, whose recent resume includes producing Margo Prices Midwest Farmers Daughter, work with Memphis legends like Al Green in the Sam Phillips studio thats now Ross-Spangs home turf, and winning a Grammy for mixing Jason Isbells album Something More Than Free (another Sound Emporium project). Ross-Spang was assisted by Rachel Moore; he shared production credits with Beam, Burns and Convertino.Beam had written all the songs for In the Reins. He took the lead again here, bringing five songs to the session, but this time Burns chipped in, too. The first time, we basically backed up Sam playing his songs, John says. This time we allowed for improvisation. Joey was willing to offer song ideas and Sam was open to it. It was more collaborative.With my own stuff, Im always fighting expectations, Beam admits. Its hard to stay focused on that sense of discovery. In contrast, this session was all about making something together, the act of doing it together. We were coming in doing a version of ourselves, and we had these nostalgic melodies, but we were trying to surprise ourselves.Beams opener What Heavens Left has the bones of a classic country weeper and Niehauss crying pedal steel to match, but Valenzuelas hornfirst floating, then high-steppingtugs the tune toward R&B. The lyric gives thanksto a lover, a sibling or friend, maybe music itself: You take my doubt and let me believe/You find the lightning in the tops of my trees, Sam sings.On Joeys Midnight Sun, the two singers trade haunted-sounding verses over shimmering steel until the song devolves into a corrosive electric lead like a dying siren from Burns.One of Beams signature cinematic strummers with an inescapably sticky melody, Father Mountain is the lead single from Years to Burn. Burns doubles Beams lead vocal with an almost ghostly high harmony as Burgers keys twinkle through the mix.Then things get interesting. John and I proposed doing this instrumental, free piece, and Sam said great, Joey recounts. That became Outside El Paso, a showcase for Valenzuela, a great improviser on trumpet, John says.I spend so much time on words and chord changes, whereas those guys, their musicality and songwriting are more on even ground, Sam adds. Us doing that on the record was a way of stretching out. The way we play live shows together is similar, so this was a way of bringing the stage into the studio.Follow the Water returns to Beams comfort zone, foregrounding his vocals and a percussive refrain about being buffeted by life: Everybody climbs on the rollercoaster car/Gets rattled by the track, up and down, around and back/Whoever I was, no matter who you are/No ones walking off the same.The ensuing eight minutes are both the solution to something of a studio puzzle and the pinnacle of the sessions free exchange of musical ideas. The pieces were Tennessee Train, an acoustic sketch with a lyric Beam completed just as the session began, and Evil Eye, a two-chord groove fit for improvisatory vamping. Each was more than worthy, but neither seemed to stand aloneuntil they were paired with another piece, Pjaro, based on lyric fragments drawn from Tennessee Train then translated into Spanish and sung by Valenzuela over pretty acoustic picking.Together the three form a single song cycle of three mini-movements whose title arose from a tossed-off joke that wound up hitting home. In a quiet moment at the end of a take, bassist Sternberg quipped, Life is bittersweet, Convertino remembers. We all laughed, but then we said, Yeah. Hell yeah. And that became The Bitter Suite.In the suite and throughout these songs, you can feel a spirit that reflects a sense of hope when times are tough. There are minor chords and major chords, openness versus chaos, harmonies between Sam and myself, an uplifting feeling paired with melancholy, blues, sadness. Its a combination not easily described.Music is storytelling. Even if there arent words, theres dialogue happening all through, John adds. These dialogues tell stories of where were at right now, and the beauty of music is you dont have to talk about it. You dont have to describe or instruct but go with intuition. For me the most important part is trusting the intuition in your heart and hope it translates to the listener or the people at the show.The set closes with a pair of tunes written by Beam but sung by Burns. I love doing that. You hear it different, Sam says. We tried to do it as much as we couldtag team, Ill sing one of yours, you sing one of mine. The point is to create as much variety as possible.The title track is a subtle stunner, adorned with gorgeous brass and steel, played with a lullabys tender grace and delivered by Joey with delicate restraint. The lyric suggests a reflection on lifes phases, its difficulties and pleasures, dreams and disappointments, connections made and broken, past and still to come.Life is hard. Awesome. And scary as shit. But it can lift you up if you let it, Sam offers. These are the things Joey and I write about now. And the title can encapsulate a lot of things. Years to Burn could mean youre cocky, youve got it made. Or, our life is ours to burn, to be inspired. Or youre burned by life, brutalized. Its an ambiguous title, because life is complicated. Lets not talk like teenagers about love, desire, pain, cause were not teenagers. And thats not a bad thing.The recording, and the partnership, come full circle on the closer. Penned some two decades ago, In Your Own Time was one of Beams earliest demos and the first of his songs Calexico heard. With some extra studio time on the final day, Burns learned the tune and the band recorded it as a shared, shambling shuffle that rides Burgers loping, homey keys. Joey and Sam trade leadsBurnss Latin-tinged, Beams a bit of bluesy slideand share the vocal. We only want a life thats well worth living/And sleeping aint no kind of life at all, they sing in tandem. Come meet the family and get warm by the fire/Someone will catch you if you want to fall.

      Cost: 35.00

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