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Calexico/Iron and Wine

Tucson-based Calexico apparently thrives on collaboration. Among the artists with whom the band has recorded are Nancy Sinatra, Mark Eitzel, Nortec Collective and Los Super Seven, and that's just lately.

On this seven-song CD our heroes team up with the dusky folk-rock group Iron and Wine, a truly inspired meeting.

After several listens, I find myself with but two quibbles: I wish I&W main man Sam Beam would occasionally sing in something other than his trademark whispered moan; and the trite vocal melody on "A History of Lovers" is too similar to Jimmy Buffett's "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes" for my taste.

Otherwise, this disc has so much depth, I discover new elements to love each time I press play. The muted trumpet solo on "Burn That Broken Bed" feels likes a breeze of cool jazz blowing through the desert. Chugging swamp-blues put an exclamation point on "Red Dust."

The restrained beauty of "He Lays in the Reins" may bring to mind such overused critics' words as haunting, melancholic, wistful. However, the pings of piano, ghostly steel guitar and Salvador Duran's movie-idol guest vocal en Español make the song a singular triumph.

"Sixteen, Maybe Less" is a deceptively quiet meditation on long-lost young love. Listen closely, and you'll feel its brooding, reverb-laden romanticism conjure the humid atmosphere of a Roy Orbison single or one of Angelo Badalamenti's movie scores. It's that good.

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