April 1, 2009

the trapeze act was wonderful, but never meant to last


I remember a book from when I was about ten years old, something like A Wrinkle In Time or one of those fascinating imaginative visions of other worlds and things unseen.

My brain stretches hard to recall a passage about tapping into a current of singing that existed outside of normal time, these pulsing jetstreams of melody and poetry and all the human longing – timeless and universal. Always there. Not always heard.

When I listen to “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine, that’s the closest I can come to expressing its perfection. Opening with the tinkle of a windchime, it sounds like waking from a dream on your front porch in the late afternoon in springtime, or maybe not waking at all but being suspended. Somewhere where –for once– you can hear the currents.

“Please remember me, happily, by the rosebush laughing, with bruises on my chin….” the song begins, with golden beauty and purplish contusions from the first lines. The song weaves those two threads of our sweetest joys and our saddest failings over and under for the next ten minutes, with a feel of looking back from a distance. The things we carry with us, the strange variance of memory. Sam Beam crafts a stunning, endless, hypnotically rhythmic masterpiece that feels like it has always existed, and you just walked somewhere into the middle.

It’s about death and the pearly gates and how we might feel when we get there, and the eloquent graffiti that might greet us on the walls outside. “Lost and found.” “Don’t look down.” “Tell my mother not to worry.”

It’s about dreams among the fallen trees of our babies that may have never been born. It’s about uphill clawing, colored birds, and remembering the time in the car behind the carnival with your hand between my knees. “Please remember me, my misery, and how it lost me all I wanted.” It is, in a word, perfect.

Nothing compares to the original recording (from the In Good Company soundtrack), but this live version is humble and as unaffected as they come.

November 29, 2007
Peace Beneath The City
Sodom South Georgia
Boy With A Coin
Resurrection Fern
Woman King
The Trapeze Swinger
He Lays In The Reins
(Calexico cover)


[top image credit Anne Teliczan]


  • Beautiful song, beautiful post. Thank you.

    Larry — April 1, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  • What an exquisite song. Such a great meld of lyrics, melody, and stripped-bare delivery. Wow. I am unfamiliar with this artist/band, but I will sure be checking out more of their work. Thanks for the downloads.

    Linda T — April 1, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  • thanks so much Heather, I’ll be listening to this shortly.

    Hanan — April 1, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  • Have you heard the iTunes Original version? It’s finger-picked and softer, with his sister coming in towards the end. I go back and forth between which one I love more.

    Thanks for this!

    Ryan — April 1, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  • I think He Lays in the Reins (probably one of my favorite songs) was actually a collaboration between Iron & Wine and Calexico, off the Woman King EP. Still, a great set.

    J — April 1, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  • A great post and just in time. I’ve been an Iron and Wine fan forever, but I somehow missed this song. I heard a cover version just this week and made a mental note to go back and check out the original.

    Matt — April 1, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  • I love,love,love this song and recently brought it out of the archives…then I had a case of “the blahs” for 4 days. Take the bad with the good, I guess!

    Megan — April 1, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  • “The Trapeze Swinger” is one of my favorite songs ever. As is “Fever Dream”. Masterful singer/songwriter. If you haven’t checked out any William Fitzsimmons I highly recommend it. There’s a lot of similarities there…and not just in the look. Thanks for the post, Heather!

    - Lee

    Lee — April 1, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  • amazing post.

    Rbt. B Rutherford — April 2, 2009 @ 5:45 am

  • The song is amazing and heartfelt, but the post itself was memorable.

    Andre — April 2, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  • I listened to this when I woke up this morning. The song just popped up on my Bon Iver Pandora station. Some sort of strange, cosmic events are afoot.

    JC — April 2, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  • Yay Iron and Wine!
    Radio1190 has entered the blogosphere.
    Can we be blog friends?

    radio1190 — April 2, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  • [...] The National, Bat for Lashes, Annie, Franz Ferdinand, Harlem Shakes, Keri Hilson, Mini Viva, Iron and Wine, Say Hi, The Presets, Voxtrot, Wolfgang Amadeus Pheonix, Galvatrons, Pilot Speed, Grand [...]

    Flame in your heart « hello stranger. — April 7, 2009 @ 1:46 am

  • Sam Beam is perhaps the best songwriter since Dylan or Van Morrison. This song is perfectly beautiful. I was doing some research for an upcoming post on my music blog, http://www.pacingthecagemusic.blogspot. I dig what you’re doing here, keep it up.

    pacing the cage — April 7, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  • Oh wow…”A Wrinkle in Time” was buried so very deep in my grade 5 psyche. I like what you said. And great song.

    jacquieshambles — April 7, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  • Love to read that. Trapeze Swinger is one of my all time favourite songs and means a lot to me.

    Gerrit — April 8, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  • that song is pretty perfect.

    black dominoes — April 10, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  • i just discovered this tune and was amazed to find another favorite, and perhaps in some ways my new most favorite, melodies that i, yes, just seemed to wander into the middle of and become suspended. perfect, rhythmic, pulsating, laughing, crying masterpiece.

    kevin — June 15, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself. My all time favorite song. Every time I listen I unravel a new layer of insight. I love reading other peoples take on this. Thanks.

    Stacey — October 16, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  • Hey there Heather,

    you never cease to amaze me with your exacting words and serious ear. I’ve been stumbling upon your blog over and over again for over two years, as well as columns you write. This article especially is dead on. And your mention of “A Wrinkle In Time” is bizarre because I was trying to remember that book yesterday.

    Casey Weisdock — November 5, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  • GREAT post! I’ve loved Iron & Wine for years and was really excited to come across it. Thanks for sharing.

    Terrence — April 18, 2010 @ 4:37 am

  • The question iss where to find car parts of all the other explorations
    with verticality, even the junk yard followed her until police arrived.
    Eleven miles of aisles packed with profit-making products
    for peugeot logo several niche markets including, light truck, street rod, wheel/tire, restoration, specialty parts, and
    they are ready to test is coming out of it.

    svpply.com — March 12, 2014 @ 2:33 am

  • I remember hearing this song for the first time in a big concert venue in NYC many years ago. It was in the middle of the set, but the concert might as well have ended right then and there. And I might as well have stood in the middle of a windswept, sun-drenched grass field somewhere far from the city. Because it wasn’t in an album of his, I hadn’t heard of it until that night. Ever since then, the rhythmic strumming that opens the epic 10-minute song can always nudge me towards that state of blissful melancholia not readily accessible otherwise.

    James — February 8, 2015 @ 8:15 am

  • Sometimes I don’t listen as much to the lyrics as to the tenderness of the voice, I get that with Van Morrison too. I love the gentleness of this song, and your review too. For me this music is a lullaby, it feels like being rocked and cradled, or being young enough to fall asleep in the back of the car on the way home at night, and something wonderful comes on the radio, and in that cradling feeling, it just seems to go on forever.

    Denise Schultz — April 26, 2016 @ 2:28 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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