wed 24/04/2019

CD: Iron and Wine/ Ben Bridwell - Sing Into My Mouth | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Iron and Wine/ Ben Bridwell - Sing Into My Mouth

CD: Iron and Wine/ Ben Bridwell - Sing Into My Mouth

Odd-couple alt-country collaborators create a thing of understated beauty

Bridwell and Beam: bar room bros

A cover of Talking Heads' “This Must Be the Place” opens Sing Into My Mouth and it's classic Iron and Wine - all Appalachian harmonies and gently plucked guitar. Like Sam Beam's earlier cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” the arrangement lends the original -  a slightly abstracted piece of electronic pop - fresh heart and simple emotion. But it's the only song in this collaboration with this trademark sound. What then of the other 11 tracks covered by the big-bearded singer and his friend, the Band of Horses’ front man?

Oddly for two such colourful protagonists, few tracks are quite as distinctive as you might expect. Instead, for much of the album we get a series of arrangements that sound surprisingly similar to Bonnie Prince Billy; all gently-warbling vocals and low-key rhythms. Still it's an exceedingly pleasant combination of alt-country and Seventies Americana.  

When the vocal dynamics are stretched they are certainly a joy to listen to. Bridwell's declamatory delivery on John Cale’s “You Know More Than I Know” gives the verses simple energy, whilst the chorus remains soft and questioning. Beam’s mellifluous baritone on Bonnie Raitt’s plaintive, “Anyday Woman”, turns the song into a piece of avuncular wisdom. And where the two voices blend together, such as on Marshall Tucker Band’s “Ab’s Song” the effect is golden.

Things fall a little flatter where the originals are weaker. Sade’s “Bulletproof Soul” is fairly forgettable and “Coyote” by Peter LaFarge sounds almost as if being made up on the spot. Most disappointing, though, is a country-blues classic: "Magnolia" by JJ Cale. Little could improve on the origin - certainly not the bizarre echo featured here. Still, for any unevenness in quality, this is, undeniably, a slow-burner of a record leading to many enduring pleasures.

Overleaf: Bridwell and Beam performing "No Way Out of Here" on Letterman

 

This is a slow-burner of a record leading to many enduring pleasures

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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