Oct 8, 2007

The Shepherd's Dog-Iron & Wine

For starters, I haven't had much Iron & Wine in my record collection. For no other reason then that I can't buy every CD released (although I do try). Although I was probably also a little hesitant to buy into another softly spoken type. But the reports were good that "The Shepherd's Dog" represented a change of direction for Sam Beam's music. Backed by a full band the bearded one was expanding his sound a great deal. So my verdict on his new record. I believe he has produced a well crafted, beautifully sounding album, with great attention to detail. Basically it is an enjoyable listen, but not essential listening in my opinion.

For those that have heard "Boy With a Coin", it is a fair representation of the fuller sound on display here. Its relentless clapping rhythm will easily get under your skin. Definitely a highlight of the album. The opening two tracks are also pulsating affairs, particularly "White Tooth Man" which features a pretty hypnotic sitar to drive it along. Certainly a feature of the songs that are expansive in sound are the exotic sounds that Sam Beam employs. There is touch of Indian mysticism and West African beats at work on several of the tracks, especially the intricate rhythms featured on "House By the Sea". Another feature of this album is the vocal of Sam Beam, his gentle lilting voice is very easy to listen to and, I think, bears an uncanny resemblance to Sufjan Stevens. However he doesn't have Mr Stevens' unique ability to pierce your heart and some of the slower paced songs have a similar feeling and therefore fail to register with me. Two exceptions are "Resurrection Fern" which is lush and tranquil and the closing track "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" which is heartbreakingly beautiful (see lyrics below).

I was a quick wet boy
Diving too deep for coins
All of your straight blind eyes
Wide on my plastic toys
And when the cops closed the fair
I cut my long baby hair
Stole me a dog-eared map
And called for you everywhere

Have I found you?
Flightless bird, jealous, weeping
Or lost you?
American mouth
Big bill looming

Now I’m a fat house cat
Cursing my sore blunt tongue
Watching the warm poison rats
Curl through the wide/white fence cracks
Kissing on magazine photos
Those fishing lures thrown in the cold and clean
Blood of Christ mountain stream

Have I found you?
Flightless bird, brown hair bleeding
Or lost you?
American mouth
Big bill, stuck going down

MP3: Boy With a Coin
MP3: Innocent Bones

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