Samuel Beam, known musically as Iron and Wine, brings an eclectic and rich collection of music to the table in The Shepherd’s Dog, his 2007 album release. Featuring banjos, guitars, percussion, strings and soft spoken vocals, the album is at times soft and at other times lively in delivery, but never dull. Combining music from genres such as rock, folk, bluegrass and country, Iron and Wine creates a unique style of melodies that are distinctly individual.
Born in South Carolina, Beam graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University before moving on to Florida State, where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in cinematography. In addition to this, Beam continued to produce music, ultimately culminating in releasing his first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle, in 2002 with Sub Pop Records. Ever since, he has produced music, releasing four additional albums. The most recent album to date is Ghost on Ghost, released in 2013. His discography includes, in chronological order: The Creek Drank the Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days, The Shepherd’s Dog, Kiss Each Other Clean, and Ghost on Ghost.
The listener is greeted with “Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car” as an introductory track, familiarizing the listener with the folksy, rhythmic sound present in the album’s entirety. Each track following bears the similar sound, which cannot easily be classified as folk, country, or bluegrass. Iron and Wine masterfully blends these genres into something that bears the trademarks of each without explicitly limiting itself to just one. Soulful acoustic riffs are met with murmured vocals and tasteful inclusions of electric guitar. At times the listener is spurred to dance along with the energetic and playful “The Devil Never Sleeps”; other times, to close their eyes and be absorbed in the almost funky “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)”. Songs such as “Resurrection Fern” remind the listener of modern country, with wide, echoing guitars accompanied with images of wide open prairie. The variety and range of Iron and Wine’s music makes it easy to hook listeners, while its relative simplicity holds the listener’s attention. Beam’s soft-spoken vocals add a charm and intimacy to each and every track present on the album, imitating the feeling of sharing a small room with the artist and his band as they play each piece. Notable tracks include: “Peace Beneath The City”, “Innocent Bones”, “Boy With A Coin”, and “Lovesong Of The Buzzard”. When listening to the album in its entirety, a listener will be surprised to hear the silence after the last track has played: the album plays out in a brief 49 minutes, and the listener cannot often help but wishing there was more. Thankfully, Iron and Wine’s other albums prove to be just as if not more interesting, leaving a trail of cool, intriguing music behind a wonderfully delivered album.
Additionally, credit must be given to Beam’s band. Pianos, electric and acoustic guitars, drums, and banjos all accompany his performance and all add to the addictive sound of the album. It isn’t uncommon to hear brief, almost jazz-like solos from each piece interspersed within the tracks. While Beam’s voice and solo work can easily hold a listener, it is the soulful additions of everyone that make The Shepherd’s Dog memorable and easily listenable.
The Shepherd’s Dog is a wonderful introduction to Iron and Wine. A memorable album that is difficult to classify in terms of genre, it is better to instead approach it for what it is. Iron and Wine is a homogeneous blend of a multitude of genres that culminates in a trademark sound that many will find to be incredibly catchy and intriguing.