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Iron and Wine 

The Shepherd's Dog (Sub Pop)

Wednesday, Nov 28 2007

It used to be that Iron and Wine (aka Sam Beam) relied mostly on negative space — that is, quietness or the absence of sound — to accentuate the simplicity of its lo-fi folk songs. That's not the case with Beam's third full-length, The Shepherd's Dog. Using his 2005 EPs Woman King and the Iron and Wine/Calexico collaboration In the Reins as sonic cocoons of a sort, Beam has emerged with a more fully realized sound. Not that Shepherd's Dog is loud by any stretch of the imagination, but it has a lot more energy and motion than its predecessors.

Beam's placid singing has always beckoned listeners to lean in more closely, but it's not the sort that propels a song. Hearing his airy voice become slightly more assertive during these 12 songs gives the sense that he's crept out of hiding a bit. His lyrics are gently set in a colorful array of South American, African, Eastern, and electronic styles, in addition to the Southern Gothic sounds he has long worked with.

Percussion plays a central role. A myriad of drum tones struck in a syncopated pattern give "White Tooth Man" a churning pulse, made more hypnotic by a guttural, sitar-like drone and the undulating motion of Beam's vocal melody. He has called Shepherd's Dog his Swordfishtrombones after Tom Waits' 1983 musical turning point, and while it's not quite on a par with that level of drastic reinvention, Beam has definitely done well by fleshing out his increasingly complex songs.

About The Author

Jewly Hight


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