In the summer of 2014, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam convened with Band Of Horses' frontman Ben Bridwell in Asheville, North Carolina to record a set of covers that runs the gamut of their respective record collections. When the work of Sade nestles alongside John Cale, you know you're in for something interesting. Or, at least, you might assume so.
While both Beam and Bridwell have favoured bigger arrangements with their respective bands of late, 'Sing Into My Mouth' strips out the layers and puts these two charming voices to the fore. Bridwell, in particular, has been peddling a soft-rock horror show on the last couple of Band Of Horses records, abandoning the warm melody of their early releases and pouring on the polish under major label guidance. Here, the bombast is scaled back and it's all about the pedal steel.
Left to his own devices, it's a delight to hear his emotive yelp occupy the space in a country-folk reading of Spiritualized's 'The Straight And The Narrow' and the two voices combine naturally across these twelve songs. However, the general pace of the tunes selected ensures that this collection somehow manages to lack variety, despite its wide range of sources. Somnambulant rhythms and brushed drums become a little predictable as things progress, even if the record's closing moment – a more boisterous take on Pete Seeger's 'Coyote, My Little Brother' – offers some respite.
'Sing Into My Mouth' is ultimately a bit too lightweight. Arrange yourself a playlist of the originals and it makes a far more engaging listen than their collective 2015 retooling, not least the wonderful 'Am I A Good Man' by Them Two, recently unearthed on one of the Numero label's excellent Eccentric Soul compilations.
Even then, covers albums often breathe new life into old songs by repositioning them in a new context and tinkering with their DNA. This set, however, is a little too respectful to pull that off. As a primer, it's pretty effective and the performances are occasionally absorbing, but it's hard to imagine anyone other than the most ardent completist getting excited about it.
Words: Gareth James
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