2 of 3 thought this review was well written
Sam Beam is a singer-songwriter from Florida. With the stage name Iron and Wine, Beam has amassed a large fan base, while amazing critics with his beautiful and insightful lyrics, all the while presenting it with steady, gentle vocals. His first album, The Creek Drank The Cradle was largely a critical success, however the album did not make a significant dent on any charts. Beam at first glance does not stray far from the stereotypical folk artist, but when you dive deeper into the man and the instruments he choices, the lyrics he writes, and the atmosphere he creates, Beam is unlike anything musician currently in the music industry. Beam uses the banjo, acoustic and slide guitar for the most part to create the mood, and likes to write about ironic, or unusual events to convey his meaning to the listener. This, added in with the laid back feel to the majority of his music, makes him stand alone, in what he is doing, and what he is trying to do with music.
So with all of this, fans and critics alike were waiting for his sophomore LP. With Our Endless Numbered Days, beam reached new levels in both musicianship and lyrical content, showing why Beam is often compared to Elliott Smith and Neil Young. Once again returning to his Southern Gothic writing style, Beam Released the album on March 23, 2004, Our Endless Numbered Days surpassed its predecessor in sales, and critics once again fell in love with the former University teacher.
On Your Wings opens the album, and is really able to sum up what Iron and Wine offers. Haunting vocals over the acoustic guitar, with the slide guitar played by a second musician. Beam changes it up for a spectacular bridge that rests on the slide guitar, rather then the acoustic. Bean rambles off lyrics that appear to make little to no sense, but on overview, the song comes together. Love and Some Verses and Radio War are two other songs that use the same formula. With magnificent picking done by Beam, the tracks take on a new life. Drums come in to play to give the song a different sound for Love and Some Verses, and make it a real stand out from the others. Radio War, at only a minute fifty-six, stands old for little other reasons, however the lyrics are some of Beams best. Lyrics like, “And the train track will take, All the wounded ones home; And I'll be alone, Fare thee well Sara Jones”, show how talented a lyricist Beam truly is, and how far he will stray from the box in his writing. Although Radio War is impressive, it still does not have the best lyrics on the album. The honor goes to Free Until They Cut Me Down, with simple, but intelligent, piercing lyrics such as, “When the sea takes me like my mother's arms, I will breathe free as any word of God; Papa don't tell me what you would've done, She's the one who begged me, Take me home”. This song stands out for more then just its lyrics though. The guitar work is superb and Beam seems to thrive on the drum beat.
None of the previous songs mentioned though, are among the top three on the album. These three have to be Each Coming Night, Naked As We Came, and Passing Afternoon. All three in this reviewers opinion, are some of the best folk songs made in the last couple decades. Each Coming Night is Beam at his best, making music that makes you feel like you are on a porch on a hot summer day, drinking you favorite beverage and listing to a musician on your favorite radio station. Beam uses the banjo to its fullest at parts, while he just hums along. Laid back, but he makes you understand and feel what he is telling you, and makes for a intense experience the more you listen to the track. Naked As We Came is a different type of song, but shows how much Beams vocals have improved from his last work. Graceful picking done by Sam, with a female background vocalist makes this song one of the albums best. However the best vocal performance, as well as the best song on the album, is Passing Afternoon. A simple acoustic guitar over a soft beat, with Beam showing off his vocals. The song is haunting, with Beams vocals and the lyrics, such as, “There are names across the sea, only now I do believe; Sometimes, with the windows closed, she'll sit and think of me”, make for a unique and intoxicating experience, by far, Beams best work.
No matter how good these songs are, the album is not free from flaws. Complaints against Iron and Wine is that songs tend to be boring and bland at times. This album, does not go with out its share of moments that could lend itself to such criticism. Songs such as Fever Dream and Sodom, South Georgia tend to drag on, and do not add to the albums mood. Simple for the sake of being simple it seems, both tracks fall short of the standard Beam has set for himself on previous mentioned tracks and albums for that matter. Both share similar qualities, and are amongst the longer tracks on the album and do not need to be. Beam seems like he needed two other songs, and these two are what came to him. Easily among the worst work Beam has done, the songs take away from the album, and just fall into the category of forgettable tracks. Sadly the album had to be twelve songs long, instead of an almost perfect ten. Although, these are two weak songs, the qualities do flourish on other tracks. Sunset Soon Forgotten and Teeth in the Grass take the same formula, of simple acoustic driven folk songs. The reason these songs fly high, while the others crash and burn are Beams vocals, which are near perfect on these two. The track length also adds to both. Short and sweet, make Sunset Soon Forgotten and Teeth in the Grass two of the albums stronger tracks.
Sam Beam, a.k.a. Iron and Wine has put together one of the better folk albums of the last decade, and improved on his debut by head and shoulders. The former Florida University teacher, uses his intelligent lyrics, over an simplistic acoustic sound to create song after song that is worth its weight in gold. Hopefully another LP is set to be released soon, one can only wish it is as an impressive a work as Beams Sophomore release.
- Great acoustic guitar work.
- Vast improvement in Beams vocals from his previous work.
- Use of banjo and slide guitar to create an unique atmosphere.
- Some songs can become boring after repeated listens.
- Fever Dream.
- Sodom, South Georgia.
- Each Coming Night
- Naked As We Came
- Passing Afternoon