Sunday, July 1, 2007

Reviews:: Iron & Wine The Shepard's Dog

Can you be the same and completely different? That's the question I found myself asking as I listened to Sam Beam's latest record. His melodies, his verse structure - diction and dialog, they are the same. Religious metaphors and complex description of character are the structure of the album, but instead of a simple acoustic backbone, Sam and his band have greatly expanded their sound.

From the opening notes of Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car, you hear new elements in the arrangements. Electric guitar, heavy percussion, piano all balance off Sam's trademark vocals and acoustic guitar. These sound evolve through the entire record - the Indian influence that starts White Tooth Man, the vocoder-ish techniques on Carousel, the hand claps and drum rimmed clack of the lead single, Boy With a Coin - these all show how much playing with Calexico influenced the band and helped beef up the sound Sam wants to play.

But you can't say he's changed. The melody and sounds he delivers on Lovesong of the Buzzard or Resurrection Fern will warm the heart of any long time fan, he just seems to add something in places he once ignored. Innocent Bones is one of the best songs he's ever delivered. I just think it will take people time to settle into the new groove he seems to have embraced fully. Considering he's written song after song with a simple acoustic, the off-kilter violin, frantic accordion, piano noodles and heavy plucked stand-up bass ring out like rifle shots.

Personally, I really like the new direction, but happily sway through the traditional riffs he throws in on songs. A simple (and probably inaccurate) analogy would be how Simon and Garfunkel songs still sound fantastic, but Simon's jump into a more worldy sound was quite welcome to his fans. Will it appeal to the Iron & Wine purists? I'm not sure, but I'm quite happy to tag along for this new adventure.
MP3:: Lovesong for the Buzzard - live

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Posted at 1:36 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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