Review Summary: Sam Beam resplendent.
In 2005, Iron & Wine began to evolve from Sam Beam's sleepy bedroom recordings into a fully functioning folk-rock band. The Woman King
EP, the first of two extended plays released that year to bear the Iron & Wine name, was Beam's first foray into incorporating not only a full band but electric instruments. This evolution would continue with the flashes of twangy Eagles-esque pop found on his collaboration with Calexico, In the Reins
, and the 60's psychedelia influence found on 2007's The Shepherd's Dog
For Record Store Day 2009, Iron & Wine released the limited run CD Norfolk
. Recorded on the Woman King
tour, it acts as a marker to close out the first half of Beam's career as a solo artist, while hinting at the sound that he would grow in to. On the recording Beam is backed by his band, although they only hit full stride for the more raucous tracks like "Lilith's Song" and the dusty Delta blues redux of "Free Until They Cut Me Down". On the songs culled from his earlier catalog, Beam serenades his audience with his beautifully hushed tones and gently finger-picked acoustic guitar just as he always has, but now with the addition of some light backing drums and new melodies due to the incorporation of the full band sound into his hazy southern anthems. Beam does save some of his songs from the band treatment, leaving the more delicate numbers like "Southern Anthem" and "Sunset Soon Forgotten" in their simplistic and bare natural beauty. Iron & Wine end their eighteen song set perfectly with "The Trapeze Swinger". Beam's alluring and reassuring vocals and the calming notes from his acoustic guitar outshine the original recording from the In Good Company
soundtrack with a fuller, more vibrant sound. It is nothing short of perfect.
All in all, Norfolk
is a delightful look back at the first few years of Iron & Wine and showcases many of the songs that made us fans of Sam Beam in the first place. The only downside to Norfolk
is that due to its limited release it is rather hard to find, but it is definitely worth the search.