Iron & Wine consists of singer/songwriter Sam Beam: a beautifully hushed voice slightly contrasting with a grizzly beard (think Doug Martsch form Built to Spill
) over an acoustic guitar and the occasional twanging of a banjo. Beam hails from Miami and when he's not recording or on tour, he's teaching Cinematography at a local college. Beam may come off as the typical, run-of-the-mill Elliott Smith or Nick Drake knock-off, but there's something just a little bit different in his music. His laid back sense of singing and his childlike awareness of animals and where certain emotions belong, bring more to the table than you would imagine. One may find that Beam's music falls just shy of simply humming lullabies over the delicate plucking of an acoustic guitar or banjo and maybe that's what he wants and that's what he's striving for, but his hushed vocals reel you in and keep you hooked until the album is over, leaving you stunned with beauty.
The album opens with the gentle plucking of a guitar to Lion's Mane
where Beam's quiet vocals grab your attention, singing of love and where to find it:
and love is a tired symphony
you hum when you're awake
and love is a crying baby
mama warned you not to shake
and love's the best sensation
hiding in the lion's mane
Beam has a knack for camouflaging sensations and emotions within the physical features of animals. In Bird Stealing Bread
he's reminiscing of a love he had previously, singing there's a bird stealing bread, that I brought out from under my nose
, and then later coming back to that with do his hands in your hair, feel a lot like a thing, you believe in, or a bit like a bird stealing bread out from under your nose?
The sorrowful lyrics of Promising Light
, (probably my favorite song on the album), could almost bring a man to tears. The depressing music is accompanied by his constant hushed vocals and the eventual strumming of his banjo, detailing a departed love and his attempts to not look at attractive girls, hoping to stay true to her even though she's gone.
Time and all you took
Only my freedom to f*ck the whole world
Promising not to look
Promising light on the sidewalk girls
By the time The Rooster Moans
, (no pun intended), reaches your ears, you've probably come to the conclusion that Iron & Wine's music is a mix of southern country bluegrass and Nick Drake-esque vocals. His southern roots, although from Miami, Florida and not the deep backwoods of Alabama or Arkansas, really stand out through his music, whether it is the twang from his banjo, or the plucking of his guitar.
The album kind of comes down when it reaches Weary Memory
, where Beam talks of a memory of a wife, and how he carries only one picture as a memory of her, yet certain things he notices remind him of her.
Throughout The Creek Drank the Cradle
Beam double-tracked his voice over a few of the songs, causing beautifully tracked harmonies. This album was in fact, recorded in his apartment on a lo-fi four-track, which may annoy some ears, but I find it to be quite a nice revelation to the music he's produced. The album ends on Muddy Hymnal
, an almost dark and lucid story tale of one who has lost a love. Beam doesn't really hold back on the short story telling in this album, but what's folk without a few interesting folklores? The Creek Drank the Cradle
is a meditative album perfect for studying, napping or simply to relax too. It's not a road-trippin, partying, beach-goin album, so don't expect up-tempo riffs and loud vocals, but if you do decide to take it to the beach or somewhere unexpected, I'm sure you'll find that it truly is a quiet treasure.
Filled with wonderful lyrics
Beautiful quiet vocals
Not the most exciting album (if you're looking for something exhilarating)
Might sound boring to some.