When two great tastes come together the result is something even greater then the sum of the parts right? That’s what they say about peanut butter and chocolate, although I don’t like Recess peanut butter cups. That’s not quite the case for one of the surprise albums of this year from Sam Beam of Iron and Wine and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses. Both of these bands make some of my favorite indie micro brewery music. It came as a surprise to me when I found out that the two had released an album of covers.
The brainchild of Ben Bridwell, Sing Into My Mouth is an eclectic collection of covers from artists as diverse as The Talking Heads to the Marshall Tucker Band. The album gets it’s title from a line in the wonderfully weird 1983 Talking Heads song “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”. The song is one of the albums highlights and sets the tone for the collaboration between the two folk singers.
With folk being the common thread, songs like “This Must Be the Place” have much of what made them interesting initially removed. In the case of the Talking Head’s song, all Afropop elements are removed in favor of melodic folk. Besides changing the texture of the song dramatically by removing all of David Byrne’s otherworldly mystery, the new treatment adds a more human (and possibly relateable element) to the original.
That’s not saying the original was detached. The experiment just worked well here. Similar success continues on the next track “Done This One Before” from Ronnie Lane to a lesser extent. From that point on much of the album sounds like the folksy chill music. Like the cover art suggests, this album could be the ideal backdrop for a few drinking buddies to get together with. I’m sure that’s what Sam and Ben must have done at some hip pub in Asheville, NC where Sing Into My Mouth was recorded.
At times the individual styles of Iron and Wine or Band of Horses is more dominant. “God Knows..” sounds very much like a Band of Horses track complete with soaring vocals and all. On The wonderful cover of Sade’s Bullet Proof Soul, both influences mesh with a almost soulful rendition. It might be the point where both Beam and Bridwell sound like someone else altogether – maybe The Duke and the King or William Fitzsimmons.
In fact the two most unlikely covers are the albums most successful. It would not have been a stretch to imagine these two covering Pete Seeger or John Cale, but a funky Afropop new wave band and a quiet storm crooner?
For fans of these two bands this album should be very satisfying experiment. For those new to either Iron and Wine or Band of Horses Sing Into My Mouth might suggest a bit more diverse sound than either of these bands has produced in recent years. Either way this collection of songs might get you interested in the originals (many of which I had never cared to listen to before). That fact alone makes this a successful experiment.