Sam Beam of Iron & Wine (center) with Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico Credit: Piper Ferguson

As a Mexican-Swedish American who grew up with cowboy songs, Lawrence Welk, and mariachi music floating through the house, when I first heard Calexico in the early 2000s I was struck by their startlingly fresh way of straddling the southern border. For nearly a quarter century now, singer-guitarist Joey Burns, drummer John Convertino, and their Tucson-based indie-rock band have created sprawing, cinematic compositions that infuse their eclectic desert noir with Mexican borderlands grooves. In 2005 Burns and Convertino collaborated with folk-rock singer-songwriter Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, for the EP In the Reins, whose seven songs Beam wrote—and whose distinctive flavor, belonging neither to one act nor the other, left fans yearning for more. Though Beam has guested on several Calexico records since then, it took 14 years for them to come together for a sequel to In the Reins: 2019’s Years to Burn. Beam once again wrote the bulk of the songs, but the sessions departed from those for the previous record by employing mostly touring members of Iron & Wine (pedal steel player Paul Niehaus, accordionist Rob Burger, bassist Sebastian Steinberg) rather than Calexico regulars—with the exception of trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela, whose luminous playing appears on several tunes. On Years to Burn, Burns, Convertino, and Beam explore their common ground without retracing the same path, trading ideas with the comfortable grace of old friends picking up a conversation anew. “The Bitter Suite” is the most experimental iteration of their collaboration, opening with a Spanish-language overture sung by Valenzuela and then transitioning through three distinct movements. Elsewhere Americana takes the fore, setting Beam’s words in impossibly sweet harmonies. These are songs lustrous with the patina of time—as Beam puts it in an interview with Rolling Stone, this collaboration is all about how “Life is hard. Awesome. And scary as shit. But it can lift you up if you let it.” This concert will feature songs from Calexico and Iron & Wine individually as well as from their collaborative repertoire—let’s hope it doesn’t take another 14 years for them to add to it again.   v