Iron & Wine is the stage name for Florida native Sam Beam, who looks like he could have been a 19th century American President with that beard. In the late '90s, he began released tapes around Miami, which attracted the attention of Jonathan Poneman (yes, pwnman) of Sub Pop records. In 2002, he released his debut The Creek Drank The Cradle, a kaleidoscope of folksy acoustic guitars, twanging banjos, and even banjos.
On February 22, 2005, the Woman King EP was released, which I discovered due to MX. I didn't see that anyone else had done a review, so I thought I'd jump in and do one before I left for vacation.
1. Woman King - The drawling title track begins. Clacking percussion sets in with a hypnotic drone, before the acoustic guitar sets in. "Blackbird claw, raven wing, under the red sunlight." The lyrics seem to be about a woman being in the place of royalty. These lyrics seem to set the standard for the rest of the song. Good opener, and ends with a little "ting", if that makes sense. 4/5
2. Jezebel - this song slowly fades in with what sounds like a triangle, then guitar again. Sam half sings, half whispers about a woman named Jezebel. From the lyrics, I'm not sure I can quite make out the theme of the song, but it still makes for an interesting concept, has a gorgeous, flowing sound, and is one of my favorites on this album. 5/5
3. Gray Stables - A sort of horn into leads into slow, almost-military like drumming with a....tambourine, I suppose? in the background. This seems to be another song about a girl whose theme might be stalking, with lyrics like "Brave lady could see me in the darkness". A really cool violin part comes in at around the 2:10 mark. Good song 4/5
4. Freedom Hangs Like Heaven - This track begins with lazy acoustic guitar lines which lead into Sam's whisper-like vocals. The themes of this song seem to deal with, well, freedom, as well as references to Jesus and Mary. Really catchy, something I want to learn to play. My favorite song on the album, 5/5
5. My Lady's House - Another acoustic guitar intro. Sam seems to mostly use acoustic guitars on this album, giving it a genuine '60s folk feel throwing back to Buffalo Springfield. My one complaint about this song is it seems a little too slow....almost boring at times, really. Good lyrics (once again, about a girl), nice work on the piano, but not one of my favorites 3/5
6. Evening on the ground (Lilith's Song) - The intro to this reminds me of The Stranger Song by Leonard Cohen, with the guitar starting out slow and speeding up, almost to a hellacious pace to match the violin (which sounds beautiful) and drums. This song is about the sin of Lilith, which is a legend from the bible you should read up on.
There's a lot of folk revival going on right now, but Iron & Wine sound completely genuine, creating a sound that is as nostalgic as it is fresh.
Cons: None, really. I'm gonna sound like an utter fanboy, but this band is awesome, and I don't really see anything wrong with them.
I give this an album 4.5/5. Definitely check this out if you're into folk rock. If you like this, be sure to check out In The Reins, their collaboration with Calexico.