April 27, 2004
Iron & Wine : Our Endless Numbered Days
Poetic, backwood blues...
8 / 10
Sam Beam - he is both Iron and Wine - is unusual, to say the least. Born and raised in the Latino-heavy sunshine state of Florida, he has somehow resisted the temptation to bang out potty-mouthed, super-heavy Miami bass and is, instead, the whispering ghost of a stripped-down, backwoods country blues he's probably no more closely related to than you or me.
Iron & Wine's debut, 'The Creek Drank The Cradle', was unencumbered by anything more complicated than Beam's voice, his broodily thrummed acoustic guitar and a few curling sheaves of banjo. Much of it sounded like a roughly-hewn museum piece that could easily have been recorded 70 years
ago. In Iron & Wine World, the sun was always
just about to drop behind the mountain across
the valley, the first beer of the day still had tiny chunks of ice floating in it and the only sound audible above the crickets was Beam's guitar
and voice floating like hickory smoke on the
warm evening breeze.
But that was then. This time around, Beam is less like some dungaree-wearing, O Brother, Where Art Thou? throwback, and more like the natural - and, frankly, wonderful - successor to the Elliott Smith and Nick Drake school of perfectly beautiful songwriting. Though the flashes of banjo and porch-friendly harmonies remain, there's now room for occasional drums, a little bass, other voices that whisper their support. You can hear it in the soft hum that envelopes 'Cinder And Smoke', in the powerfully stark 'Fever Dream', and in his sister Sara's frozen sigh of a voice as she lifts the lover's lament 'Naked As We Came' from its gentle base into a place of almost unearthly tenderness. You can only hope Beam's future is a little brighter than that of his predecessors.
Iron & Wine isn't an easy place - death and sorrow are never far from the surface - but Beam knows that there's nothing more healing or more uplifting than giving vent to your dreams and fears and letting them all glide away on a breath of wind. Real or imagined.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday
- Previous Album Review : The Zutons : Who Killed The Zutons?
- Next Track Review: Franz Ferdinand : Matinee