Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (2007)

Iron and Wine’s newest album finds Sam Beam straying from the time-worn formula listeners have come to expect of his songs–that they consist of little more than Beam’s sleepy-voiced vocals and acoustic guitar. Having been invigorated by the experience of recording with a full band during the making of his collaboration with Calexico (In the Reins), Beam has chosen to record his latest album with a fuller suite of instrumentation.

If this sounds alarming, never fear; the overall effect of the songs is still the understated, pastoral music. It’s the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon spent lounging beneath a tree with a tome of poetry, a loaf of bread and thou. In fact, the well-placed addition of varied musical elements–from banjo to sitar–adds to Beam’s cryptically poetic verse. Branching out from his previous, exclusively acoustic guitar approach allows Beam to stretch out and more fully inhabit the sonic spaces he creates. Motion is a sign of life, and it is good to see that Beam is not content to keep cranking out album after album of sound-alike songs. With a full band at his back, Sam Beam is stepping forward in an exciting new direction. All told, The Shepherd’s Dog is a pleasant addition to Iron and Wine’s oeuvre of drowsy music for sunny afternoons.

-Nate Campbell

Listen to Iron and Wine on Myspace 

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