When Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam collaborated with Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell on last year’s Sing Into My Mouth, the two men stuck to covers and to alternating lead vocals song by song. The album was merely pleasant. Love Letter For Fire, Beam’s pairing with Jesca Hoop, is better: It’s full of real duets, modeled after country partnerships like George and Tammy, Conway and Loretta or Kenny and Dolly. It’s a collection of love songs, co-written by Beam and Hoop, which luxuriates in gentle melodies and the back-and-forth conversations of equal partners.
Led by Beam and Hoop’s acoustic guitars and a chamber folk band that includes cello and violin (and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche), Love Letter For Fire is earnest and thoughtful. On songs like “Every Songbird Sings” and “Kiss Me Quick,” Hoop’s cooing voice intertwines comfortably with Beam’s calm tenor. Both sound introspective but bound together, that introspection sounds loving and lovely.