Iron & Wine is the musical project of Sam Beam, a South Carolina-born former film studies lecturer, now living in Texas. A painter also, Beamâs roots in the visual arts signpost the refined and somber storytelling that weaves throughout his music. With a softly spoken delivery conveying a certain cinematic gravitas, Beam conjures wonderfully evocative narratives rich in downhome symbolism and vivid characterization.
Despite the immediately sophisticated nature of his songwriting, Beamâs first forays into music mainly existed in isolation, his music only coming to the attention of the wider world when a home-recorded track was featured on a covermount CD free with Yeti magazine. Although Beam would later expand his sound to include electric instruments and rich, lush textures, it was his early lo-fi recordings that caught the ear of Jonathan Poneman, co-owner of Sub Pop Records, resulting in the release of debut album The Creek Drank the Cradle in September 2002. That same year, Iron & Wine were to gather a plethora of new fans when Beam's tender and spare rendering of The Postal Service's 'Such Great Heights' was featured on the Garden State soundtrack. Building on the already weighty critical reception, second album, Our Endless Numbered Days further refined Iron & Wineâs sound, developing a homespun style now characteristic of the band. Recorded in Chicago with producer Brian Deck, the addition of a full band served to illuminate Beam's deft lyricism and intimate vocal delivery. This was shortly followed by 2005âs Woman King EP, and In the Reins, a collaboration with alt country band, Calexico.
In 2007, Iron & Wine released the casually atmospheric The Shepherdâs Dog, which debuted at No. 24 on Billboardâs Top 200 Album chart and earned praise from critics hailing it as a major musical leap forward. Fleshed out and replete with more ornate arrangements than previous long players, The Shepherdâs Dog saw Iron & Wine ease into the mainstream, assisted in part by the presence of album track âFlightless Bird, American Mouthâ in the Twilight at the request of actor Kristen Stewart.
2011 saw Iron & Wine sign with 4AD for the release of his fourth studio album, Kiss Each Other Clean, outside North America. The trademark hushed vocals and plaintive acoustic guitar of Sam Beam remained, this time complimented by multi-layered productions and a greater rhythmical sophistication. This progression is in part attributable to a backing band of seven. Despite this swell in personnel, the songs retained the ornate elegance long associated with Iron & Wine, but were stretched in new directions. Debuting at an impressive No. 2 on Billboardâs Top 200 Album chart, it served to underline the unique songwriting talent of Sam Beam and his continued development as an artist.
His next album, Ghost on Ghost, followed only two years later, captured in New York with producer and longtime associate Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Califone, Fruit Bats). Helping to achieve Beamâs vision were a group of stellar musicians including Rob Burger of Tin Hat Trio, Steve Bernstein, Tony Scherr, Kenny Wollesen, and Briggan Krauss of Sex Mob, jazz drummer Brian Blade, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes of the Jazz Passengers, bassist Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan's band), cellist Marika Hughes, Maxim Moston and Doug Wieselman of Antony and the Johnsons, and Anja Wood. Burger (Tin Hat Trio) has worked with Beam intermittently through the years and handled arrangements for strings and horns on Ghost on Ghost. Released to near universal acclaim; Uncut rated the album nine out of ten, calling it "sublime ... a work of immense beauty and scale," while The Guardian said âIron and Wine have risen to become one of the great modern American bands as quietly and stealthily as any of their songs.â It also earned five-star reviews from The Mail on Sunday, The Independent on Sunday, and The Daily Telegraph.
"A great songwriter at his most relaxed and direct." Daily Telegraph (5/5)
"A work of immense beauty and scale… A stunner." Uncut (9/10)
"It never feels over-done; rather every flourish feels vital and necessary." Record Collector (4/5)
"A brilliantly written collection and an album of the year." Metro (4/5)
"Beam grows in confidence with each release." The Independent on Sunday (4.5/5)
Ghost on Ghost, the critically-lauded fifth studio album...
With the already announced Iron and Wine show at the Barbican on May 31st long sold out, a second date at the venue has been added to the tour due to demand. Taking place on Tuesday May 28th, tickets will go on sale at 9am this Friday. The forthcoming UK dates now look like the below:
28th - The Barbican, London
29th - Olympia Theatre, Dublin
30th - Opera House, Manchester
31st - The Barbican, London - SOLD OUT
Ahead of this tour and the release of the new album, Ghost on Ghost on April...
Iron & Wine, the work of Austin-based Sam Beam, released their fourth album, Kiss Each Other Clean through 4AD in January 2011. Somewhat of a departure from earlier recordings and representing an expansion of the ideas explored on last album The Shepherd's Dog, the record saw Beam's often stripped-back compositions development into ornate arrangements/ Live performances also saw Beam joined...