Monday, September 10, 2007

Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

Sam Beam is a somewhat unlikely hero who gained fame/exposure with his beautifully sparse rendition of "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service, which appeared in the universally loved or hated movie Garden State. The mellow indie-folk artist based in Miami, FL is inconspicuous with his longish hair and full mane of a beard. Beam was discovered by SubPop! fat cat Jonathan Poneman while circulating his lo-fi tapes. Poneman then requested a more formal submission; which came in the form of two full-length albums by Beam. These demo albums were shaved down to the 12 tracks released as his lo-fi debut The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002) which was followed by the decidedly hi-fi Our Endless Numbered Days (2004). There was also an intermediate stop to collaborate with Calexico in 2005 on their In The Reins EP which combined Calexico's brass horns and southern twinges with Beam's melodicism and gravitas. While collaborations usually see both artists floundering in the deep end of their combined artistic visions, In The Reins allowed Mr. Beam to explore a richer and broader palate of sounds that had yet to be seen on any of his previous albums. These influences have since carried over to his highly anticipated forthcoming album The Shepherd's Dog.

Iron & Wine's music is not poppy enough to be fawned over, (like his label mates The Shins) but is always immensely satisfying. Mr. Beam displays pinpoint attention to detail when crafting his songs. He consistently demonstrates an ability to bring stories to life through evocative lyrics, comfortable rhythms, and sensual melodies. This indie-folkster also plays guitar wonderfully and manages to come off with the utmost sincerity. If a comparison had to be made, it would be safe to say Mr. Beam is a combination of Nick Drake and Ray LaMontagne (except I don't think Mr. Beam is quite the recluse Mr. LaMontagne is said to be). Below are two tracks from the forthcoming The Shepherd's Dog that showcase both the Iron & Wine we've come to know and love, as well as a song that reveals Mr. Beam stretching with ambition from his collaboration with Calexico.

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