aNewDomain — When Sam Beam and the folks from Iron and Wine got together with Band of Horses lead singer Ben Bridwell to craft a cover album, they may or may not have penciled in “a lot of positive energy.” The result: The album “Sing Into My Mouth.” It is a 12-track ode to an odd assortment of musicians and the sound is energetic, ambient and full of character.
You get the good vibes right from the beginning.
In “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” Beam croons, “Home is where I want to be/ but I guess I’m already there.”
Bridwell’s timbre is framed by a distinct tambourine that stands out in the minimalist percussion, and the faint wailing of a steel-guitar in the background. With couplets like,“I got plenty of time/ you got light in your eyes,” (originally written by Talking Heads front man David Byrne for a 1982 recording) how can you not feel uplifted?
“Sing Into My Mouth” Goes Deep
Digging into the rest of the album you hear the themes coalesce: the spare drum kit, the background slide notes, a bit of piano and strings. From the country-style “Any Day Woman,” originally sung by Bonnie Raitt, to the minor “Bullet-Proof Soul,” neatly derived from Sade, the overall sonic streams bubble and diminish against a variety of styles and melodic strategies that give this album dimension.
At times, Beam adopts an Eddie Vedder-esque tremolo. At other points he belts it out, or hangs back with a wryly quiet vocal.
“I came in like a lamb,” sings Beam, “but I intend to leave like a lion.”
For his part, Bridwell shows up on some interesting tracks. “No Way Out of Here,” a song attributed to Unicorn but originally penned by David Gilmour, could have easily featured some of Floyd’s signature shrieking guitar sounds, which would have been somewhat in keeping with Bridwell’s sound with Band of Horses.
But “Sing Into My Mouth” deals in acoustic vibes even with the strong presence of electric guitar. It’s instrumentally toned down, and no elaborate solos can be found.
For instance, in covering “The Straight and Narrow” by Spiritualized, Beam, Bridwell and company can’t really replicate the psychedelic tinge of the original, which is supported by unique and highly specific studio work.
But maybe that’s the point.
When you listen to the cover of “Magnolia,” by J.J. Cale, you don’t expect to hear the softly calibrated sounds that make the original track sound like its being played in a refined lounge. Instead, the band makes the track its own, featuring the alternative and folk styles that have come to define Iron and Wine and Band of Horses. The new cover is even slower, more full of cymbals and completely covered in echo.
Elsewhere on the album, the group covers such diverse acts as El Perro del Mar, The Marshall Tucker Band and John Cale, never wavering in its consistently ambient style. Sometimes you hear the aggressive crescendoing so common on a Band of Horses tracks; other times you hear the whispering, soft and almost metronome tone that is classic Iron and Wine.
It’s a sound combination lots of fans will love, and a unique group of songs worthy of covering.
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