Plant and Krauss. Campbell and Lanegan. More recently, Diane and Francesconi. Hell, even Nashville‘s Gunnar and Scarlett. A boy-girl dynamic on folk and Americana is nothing new at all, but it does say something when the prospect still feels exciting because of stalwarts Sam Beam (of Iron & Wine) and Jesca Hoop.
Let’s be honest, you know exactly what you’re going to get on Love Letter For Fire: hushed melodies that feel time-worn, spreading themselves over carefully plucked acoustica. The magic comes in HoopBeam (new name, sticking with it) and the chemistry they conjure – as far as we’re aware there’s no romantic connection between them, but the way they meld together on songs like One Way To Pray (“lend me your broken bones”) has you shipping them in hope of a happy ending.
It’s no surprise that Beam gets higher billing on the title, as the sound is certainly closer to his catalogue than Hoop’s. But her contribution is just as robust, if not more so, throughout the record – The Lamb You Lost gives her the spotlight, and Hoop’s gentler voice reveals itself as the heart of the album, breathing life into Beam’s raspier tones in a way that his solo work wouldn’t be able.
Ultimately, it’s all rather impossible to dislike. The pastoral yearning of Know The Wild That Wants You is just the sort of folk ache that makes the genre so special, and special is exactly what it all feels like in the hands of these two pros. These are songs that are stronger for the involvement of both Beam and Hoop, a whole greater than the already-brilliant parts – their love letters may be for fire, but they’ll still stay imprinted on your memory for quite some time to come.