Iron & Wine
The Shepherd’s Dog
September 25th 2007
Sub Pop Records
I would love to have witnessed the birth of Iron & Wine. Could it have been the moment when Sam Beam, as a teenager learning guitar, first listened to Guinevere off Crosby Stills and Nash’s self-titled debut record? I like to imagine it that way, the education of Mr. Beam’s delicate voice, flowing and illiterating while rhythmic acoustic melodies were built into a chant-like invocation. I’ve been inspired by this record in ways that I am not sure I’ve been inspired in the better part of a decade. While it might be said that The Shepard’s Dog has much in common with Crosby Stills and Nash, make no mistake, Iron & Wine has succeeded in crafting a release of equal measure. It is not passé or derivative. It reminds us of Déjà Vu but manifests itself as a unique and provocative work. It has the mystical and folkish cohesiveness of Led Zeppelin III and the fundamental lyrical beauty of anything W. B. Yeats.
Iron & Wine has produced a record that is both ambitious and progressive. Beam has resisted the temptation to dish out more of the same, yet he has sought to maintain and further define his signature style. The Shepherd’s Dog does not retreat from the ground covered thus far, rather it presses further beyond expectation, illuminating prior work while escaping the bonds of monotony. It elevates Sam Beam, underscoring his place as one of the most sentient and talented singer/song writers of our generation. Iron & Wine avoids contrived floral fakery when constructing his poetics by keeping the lyrics rustic, earthen, and elemental. Without question, The Shepherd’s Dog is an alluring and rare beauty.
American-gothic themes lace throughout the record. Influenced by his South Carolina roots and Austin Texas home, Iron & Wine has created what in literary circles might be termed Southern Magical Realism. The Shepherd’s Dog is something slightly dark yet derived from the hearth and home. Like Van Morrison’s Moondance, there are moments of occultish mysticism and pagan imagery. Mr. Beam develops narratives incorporating kings, queens, witches, and magic and then embeds them within a modern and familiar context. Even with all of its fantastical parts, or perhaps because of them, The Shepherd’s Dog has all the strength and splendor needed to make a genuine classic. It is autumn embodied. It is hard cider and country bales stacked at the pumpkin patch. It is Iron & Wine‘s greatest feat, and one of, if not the best album of the year.
The Creek Drank the Cradle- 2002
Iron & Wine Tour EP- 2002
The Sea & The Rhythm EP- 2003
Our Endless Numbered Days- 2004
Woman King EP- 2005
In the Reins (Calexico)- 2005