|The Shepherd's Dog
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Following a one-record hiatus to collaborate with Tucson collective Calexico on 2005's In The Reins, Iron & Wine (Sam Beam, that is) recoils to the earnestness and intimacy that embodied his first two records, his cerebral words and phrases tunneled beneath an orchestra of guitar, banjo, keyboards, and strings. More definitive than ever, the rhythm and percussion complement Beam's voice, a lulling, almost eerie tone that occasionally recalls John Lennon's early solo work, especially on delicate tracks like the bluesy "Wolves (Songs of the Shepherd's Dog" and "Carousel," with its veiled references to Iraq. Those raised on the lo-fi routine of Beam's earlier work will find rawness and sanctity in the more upbeat selections: The CSN folk-rock of "House by the Sea" and "Boy with a Coin" and the atmospheric beauty of "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" and Shepherd's best song, "Lovesong of the Buzzard." With an organ swirling about and a slide guitar adding gentle flourishes, Beam concedes that "no one is the savior they would like to be," without realizing that, when it comes to fluent music and pristine storytelling, perhaps he is. --Scott Holter
More from Iron & Wine
Our Endless Numbered Days
The Creek Drank the Cradle
In the Reins, with Calexico
The Sea & the Rhythm
Iron and Wine's last release (not including the collaborative In the Reins EP which featured songs by Iron and Wine's Sam Beam and performances by both Iron and Wine and Calexico together) was 2005's Woman King, a 6-song EP which distinguished itself from its predecessors with a deepening integration of spiraling, dense opuses with intimate confessionals. On The Shepherd's Dog this integration is complete. Sam Beam has confessed to finding spiritual inspiration in Tom Waits' pi¨¨ce de r¨¦sistance, Swordfishtrombones, an album with which Waits upended his previous strategies and forged a new musical language for himself. Recorded by Sam with the assistance of longtime producer Brian Deck and engineer Colin Studebaker, The Shepherd's Dog succeeds in accomplishing a similar cathartic recasting of the artist's intentions. The arrangements here are kaleidoscopic and rich. "White Tooth Man" rocks with a desperate, menacing intensity while "Boy with a Coin", the album's first single, is darkly playful with a handclap hook tumbling under its cascading melody. The whole album breathes. Its seductive rhythms percolate and undulate, from the Psych-Bhangra-redux of "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" to the album's last dance a waltz "Flightless Bird, American Mouth". Compositionally, it is Iron and Wine's most ambitious and accomplished recording to date. It's also the most satisfying.
Iron and Wine's last release (not including the collaborative In the Reins EP which featured songs by Iron and Wine's Sam Beam and performances by both Iron and Wine and Calexico together) was 2005's Woman King, a 6-song EP which distinguished itself from its predecessors with a deepening integration of spiraling, dense opuses with intimate confessionals. On The Shepherd's Dog this integration is complete. Sam Beam has confessed to finding spiritual inspiration in Tom Waits' pi¨¨ce de r¨¦sistance, Swordfishtrombones, an album with which Waits upended his previous strategies and forged a new musical language for himself. Recorded by Sam with the assistance of longtime producer Brian Deck and engineer Colin Studebaker, The Shepherd's Dog succeeds in accomplishing a similar cathartic recasting of the artist's intentions. The arrangements here are kaleidoscopic and rich.
- The Shepherd's Dog - Iron and Wine
This has been one of the best CD's I've purchased and enjoyed listening to, thouroughly. So much so that it's been worth mentioning. What caught my hear were the blend of voices and the song writing, both lyrically and
musically speaking. I could say that they sound like but I would prefer to let them stand on there own. I thought that it's worth mentioning that I heard this group on satellite radio to. Enjoy!...more info
- can't live without this
I've been a fan for years, and have listened to very album until it's part of my bone marrow. This one took longer to find its way in, but even though the mood is a little harder, I've come to love it too. The song Carousel in particular haunts me, and Resurrection Fern is a place I keep going back to. When my dad had a heart attack last fall, this helped get me through....more info
- A beautiful piece of art
This is my first Iron And Wine album, and I can't even begin to describe how much I love it. The songwriting, the production, the arrangements - what a talent! I am in love with this album. The Shepherd's Dog, and Devendra Banhart's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, and The Church's Univited Like The Clouds are THE record releases of 2007!...more info
- terrible melodies good arrangements
Ok here's the deal - this album should have been instrumental. I mean, c'mon if you're going to sing a song you need to be able to compose a decent melody. The lyrics on the album are OK, the production/instrumentation is mostly interesting although sometimes suffers from being overproduced - what ruins this album for me are the terribly banal and repetitive melodies - I mean the guy writes a melody on the rhythm base/rhythmic underlay and unfortunately has no talent to build up/develop a theme. Sorry.:( ...more info
- The Dog!!!
Didn't have any experience with Iron and Wine before this, so I can't speak to the evolution of Sam Beam. Hmmm, all I know is I was very intrigued by the 30 second clips and the reviews, but was still hesitant to pick up the CD.
Not sure why.
I think the dog on the cover finally pulled me in with his glowing eye and his exuberant look.
I find the progression of songs and the unique choice of instrumentation a successful journey for one CD. Jim... I mean Sam Beam's voice works perfect. I love all the songs, a few better than others of course (as with any CD).
Pick it up, it's good, you'll like it. Pet your dog....more info
- NICE SOUNDS, BUT NO VOICE
A warning to purchasers. The sound on this cd is so overproduced, it's terrible. He has such a weak and ordinary voice that he is completely covered up by the high end production of the instrumentation. especially the bass. I spent more time adjusting the setttings on my stereo than I did listening to the music. The late Richard Manual, Dylan, Levon Helm or even Tom Waits could pull this off, but not this guy....more info
- Sonics Expand, Charm Remains
What a remarkable album. Sam Beam takes new steps with each song, pulling in new instruments and new styles without losing his soul or his signature whisper. From steel guitar to jazz piano, each new addition is incorporated with aplomb, and nothing feels forced.
For fans coming to this straight from the last "album," Our Endless Numbered Days, the changes may come as a surprise, but those who've heard Woman King or In the Reins, an EP collaboration with Calexico, will recognize this album as a logical follow-up to those efforts. Indeed, two members of Calexico appear here, contributing to the filling-out of a sound that is bigger and better than ever. Iron and Wine can still do introspective, soul-searing songs (like album-closer "Flightless Bird, American Mouth) better than almost anyone. Now the band can make you dance, too, on songs like "The Devil Never Sleeps."
If that seems unlikely, consider this: So far, every time I listen to the album, I end up playing it twice. Sam Beam has discovered new worlds of sound. Won't you explore them with him?...more info
- If music has the power to heal...
...then this album is some of the best medicine. Although I don't think this collection of artistically layered music is for everyone, I do feel that everyone should give it a listen...and not just once. It has no real standout songs, but the album has a cumulative effect on the listener and by the end you have taken a journey. It may be a different journey for different people, but it is a journey that will leave your heart full....more info
- I'm just a fat housecat...
So the first thing I heard off of this album was "The Devil Never Sleeps", performed on David Letterman, and my initial kneejerk reaction was "Oh no, he's changed his sound, he's gone electric, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!". This is perhaps a horribly stupid reaction, especially when it's so misleading. Not that I didn't like the song, nor do I fear change, it's just that this jazzy, full-band, more rock-oriented song is a far cry from the intimate "one guy with an acoustic guitar" style for which Mr. Sam Beam is so well-known and so damn good at. But despite that, I said ok, I'll give the new album a shot.
Fortunately, the album, while perhaps a bit more diverse than past efforts, still maintained the overall acoustic Americana-drenched folk I really just can't get enough of. It's all there, the wispy, cozy vocals, the soothing and creative guitar melodies, and the entrancingly poetic lyrics. There are songs like "White Tooth Man", "House by the Sea", and "Boy with a Coin", which boast interesting and unusual vocal lines, as well as songs like "Resurrection Fern" and "Flightless Bird, American Mouth", which have that perfect inescapable melodicism Beam does like nobody else. Then there's the aforementioned "The Devil Never Sleeps", which stands out stylistically, with its electric guitars and jazzy piano licks, but still fits in. To borrow a phrase from a friend, it's as welcome as it is out of place.
Overall, there's not a bad song on here. Some might lament that Beam has moved away from the whole stripped-down lo-fi thing, but I say hey, no big deal. He's polished and diversified his sound while still staying true to his roots, and if you ask me, there's definitely nothing wrong with that.
In short, I'm more than satisfied. Even better, I am delighted to have recently found out that Sam is now living in Austin. If I see him around, I'll be sure to congratulate him on a job well done (and maybe convince him to do a show at Hanover's :).
Anyway, yeah, pick this up. It is very very good.
- Not over produced, produced just right.
I understand the devotion to the early records, the first one sounding like a friend whispering secrets just for you and the classics Naked As We Came and Sodom South Goerogia on the second record are my favorites also. But artist's have to evolve. If he put out a record that sounded like the first one everybody would be saying he is just repeating himself. For me as lovely as the early albums are my problem was that I could never sit thorough them in one sitting. I really liked Woman King but thought Woman In The Reigns was half of a great EP.
On this one it all comes together. Not only has Sam expanded the palette he uses the colors in the paint box (in this case the sonic production of Califone and the instrumentation of Calexico) to paint a masterpiece.
The awesome trio of tracks: Wolves-Resurrection Fern-Boy With A Coin alone would make this deserving of five stars. But you gete several other stellar tracks like Pagan Angel, Buzzard, and Innocent Bones to name a few.
If your new to Iron and Wine jump right in with this, if you're an old fan there is enough on here to pull you in and if you go into it with an open mind it might just become your favorite record of the year as well. ...more info
- Great album...
I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this album. While it is quite a bit different than Beam's "Creek Drank the Cradle", I think it really shows how he has grown as a musician. I'm not always a fan of artists changing their style, because let's face it, when you've got a good thing going, it's not usually a good idea to shift gears in a big way (this means you, Mr. Dylan). But, Sam Beam definitely pulls it off with this album. That being said, my favorite song on the album is still the one that most follows his previous style, "Resurrection Fern". Throughout the whole album, he's able to keep a good momentum going, and you can definitely feel his former style coming through with the vocal harmonies throughout the album....more info
Somehow it's exactly how I wanted it to sound... The vocals, the production, the overall heart of the project is superb. It does not disappoint....more info
- fresh and innovative
So cool to listen to this new kind of music, unheard before. This guy has a voice that suits well with the sense of melody and the pearls of notes he artfully share with us. Thank you Mr. Beam and receive honor from FRANCE, you will soon be recognized as one of the best....more info
There is so much wonderful, intricate instrumentation that you want this on CD and not low bit rate MP3. Great road tripping music!...more info
- this dog don't hunt...
I am not pretending that this is a revelatory review but I would like to add one thought to the appraisal of this work. It is simply this--if your last and enjoyable experience with Iron and Wine was "Our Endless Numbered Days" this attempt at artistic growth is uneven, over-produced, and too far from the original to feel like a bridge from the quirky lyrics, modulated voice, and understated production to be recognizable as an extension of Sam Beam's original effort. To put it simply, if you liked "OEND" and are expecting more of the same, or even recognizably similar, you will be sorely disappointed....more info
- The Best Yet To Come
This is the best by far that Sam Beam has done, mixing his lush melodic voice with a gentle cacophony of musical variations. Like Swordfishtrombones sifted through velvet....more info
- Still Good
Although I was a bit disappointed by this album, it still knocked me off my feet. Sam Beam is an AMAZING musician and I can't not love him. Iron and Wine fans will love 'Pagan Angel and A Borrowed Car' along with 'Boy With A Coin.'...more info
- A Masterpiece
For a while I thought I might be getting old. I'm only 23, but I can't seem to get fully away from music of the past. My first love-at-first-sight (or listen) was Pink Floyd; I became obsessed with the great abstract lyricism (mostly pre Dark Side) of Roger Waters and the imaginative solos of David Gilmour (who is still my all-time favorite guitarist), as well as the coordinated efforts of Wright and Mason. Their music was not flashy - the parts were usually simple, but put together and stylized in a way that made them revolutionary and an absolute pleasure to listen to. I never fell in love the same way until I heard "Boy with a Coin" on a local college radio station, and I knew I should explore the rest of the album. So I did, and it didn't let me down, and it exceeded my expectations. I guess I wasn't getting old after all, but there just has not been enough exposure to great artists like Sam Beam.
As much of the previous reviewers have said, the album is great from start to finish, just like a classic Pink Floyd album. I cannot detect any tracks that were thrown on there just to make it a complete album. I believe that even if it is not now, it will in time be considered a great classic of this era of rock. Every track is unique and is an essential part of the complete album. Right now, my favorite track is "Carousel." It's just one of those tracks where you can just close your eyes and let it take you away. The vocal rotary effect is perfectly placed, and I'm glad Sam seemed to embrace more effects and extra instruments than before, not only on Carousel but in every other track.
I just can't say enough how much of a talent Beam has for songwriting, singing and instrumentation. What I like so much about this album is how everything seems placed so well. There is no "look how many notes I can play per second" or "look at this cool trippy digital sound I can make."
The lyrics are great. It's kind of funny, because for me, I consider a song to have good lyrics and singing when I don't really listen to the lyrics, I just listen to the whole musical scene, like standing back and looking at a landscape. I can do that with this album, but I can't do that with a lot of bands, as they either try too hard to be abstract and metaphorical, sing about something like running through the halls of their high school, or throw a flashy or out of place guitar solo in my face. I consider this great lyricism a rare talent, and Beam has it, not to mention that he has a great singing voice, and utilizes it with rich vocal textures and harmonies. Instrumentally, Beam has the same knack that Gilmour does (did I mention that I like Pink Floyd?) of making it sound like the backing music and the solo are pieces of a puzzle that only sound good with the other present.
To sum it up, if you're having trouble finding modern music to fall in love with, that retains the musicianship of the classic rock era, then buy this album. I'm glad I'm not really getting old.
- Subtle and beautiful
I must admit that up until now I was only familiar with Sam Beam's music from his contribution to the "Garden State" soundtrack. The glowing reviews for this new disc from all quarters intrigued me, and I am certainly not disappointed. The overall sound, the use of Indian and Brazilian rhythms with banjo, harmonica, steel guitar, and the like is guaranteed to tickle the musical fancy of any sophisticated listener, although you may get a blank stare from your typical "pop" fan. Sam's breathy vocals and superb lyrics are way down in the mix, so this is the kind of thing you want to listen to with headphones where it's quiet. I especially like the title track, which reminds me of the early 70's classic "Rock On", and "Carousel", a very gentle song with lovely electric guitar and piano interplay and a distorted vocal that, incredibly enough, reminds me of Ozzy Osborne on the Black Sabbath song "Planet Caravan!" The solo concert performance on Amazon is superb also. Don't miss it.
- Once again, I differ from the critics...
The music in this CD is lovely and beautifully played. Too bad all of the vocals are monotonous and tiresome. If the singer had stayed home, the artistry of the band would make this a good CD. As it is, it's annoying. Fortunately, the more you listen to it, the funnier the droning singer gets. I doubt that was the intent. Save your money. Buy something else that won't make you clench your teeth. ...more info
- Purists need to clamp it up, Sam's best work yet!
Why is it that whenever an artist stretches out to grow and progress people always try slag them saying it doesn't sound like their old stuff? Well, that's because it's not supposed to! This is an excellent Lp and a bold artistic choice for Sam, and it is ultimately more satisfying than any other Iron and Wine release to date. "Wolves..." takes him into a dubby rock sounscape that no one could have ever imagagined him doing before this Lp. "House by the Sea" incorporates synthesized effects and metallic precusiion (amongst other unknown instruments)and like most of the production (of these songs) seems informed by dub and ambient music. Sam's voice sounds positvely cherubic as he sings the lullaby "Flightless Bird..." and it is easily the most obvious Iron and Wine track here. "Carousel", "Peace Beneath The City", and "Boy with a Coin" are immediate standouts but they are all pretty darn good! Lucky cd purchasers also got a two track bonus Ep with the Tom Waits meets Laurie Anderson folk of "Arms of a Theif" and the percussive, middle eastern tinged "Serpent Charmer". Why these 2 didn't make the album proper is beyond me, as both are very progressive, forward sounding Iron and Wine masterpieces. Sam is the Man!...more info
- if you want to check him out, this is the album to get
not particularly a huge fan of the band, but i think this is a pretty good album. check out "White Tooth Man" and "Boy With A Coin" in particular....more info
- A promise made of smoke in a frozen copse
While I see some of the purists on Amazon have registered dissatisfaction with the new sounds on Sam Beam's latest Iron and Wine adventure, to me, it just seems like he has found new ways to decorate the core sound. The remains of The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days are firmly in place: the smoky melodies and music, existential lyrics, and the breathy voice that floats above it all. But on the Woman King EP and In the Reins collaboration with Calexico, you could see Beam pressing against the bubble.
"The Shepard's Dog" is the summation of that restlessness. The trademarks are all still there (as the opening line/title of this review attests), but Beam has added more colors to his palette. In addition to a broader array of traditional acoustic instruments, more electric and eclectic sounds have made their way into the studio. There is the experimental build-up that climaxes "Wolves" or the vocoder that adds a sixties feel to "Carousel," he's following his muse down fresh paths.
If that scares you a bit, fear not. "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" and the finale, "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" will bring those who idolized "Our Endless Numbered Days" to swoon with delight. Along with Devandra Banhart's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, "The Shepherd's Dog" is the second great folk album of 2007....more info
The Shepherd's dog is a wonderful set of melodic, dreamy folk tunes-maybe the Jayhawks doing Nick Drake....more info
- Solid album with highs and lows
This transition to a more instrumental, layered sound has been a long time coming. The Creek Drank the Cradle and The Sea and the Rhythm were lo-fi perfection; Our Endless Numbered Days, slight musical expansion in the studio; Woman King, a hit and miss change in direction; In the Reins, an amazing collaboration and hope of things to come.
And now that it's here? It's very good. That said- while I consider I&W one of the best things that's happened in music in the last 10 years, I have no problem saying that it has its low points, and didn't grab me the way every other release has. I'm all for the growth, evolution, and curve balls that come from an artist's creativity maturing. The choice was made here to take Sam's songwriting, vocal, and song structure tendencies and experiment, and I applaud that- I simply think it was too liberally applied on some songs. My take on the tracklist:
Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car- 8/10 excellent opener. One of the better examples of the new production choices working in a positive way.
White Tooth Man- 2/10 can't get into it.
Lovesong Of The Buzzard- 9/10 I love the playful feel it has to it, and the slide guitar. Classic Sam.
Carousel- 3/10 I like the melody and the guitar... but the vocal distortion is really out of place.
House By The Sea- 7/10 becomes an excellent song after the awful horn intro.
Innocent Bones- 5/10 excellent lyrics, haven't listened to it a lot yet.
Wolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)- 4/10 Sam in Jamaica. Not awful, not great.
Resurrection Fern- 9/10 vintage acoustic I&W sound, with some progressed elements (very OEND feel to it). Fantastic.
Boy With A Coin- 9/10 Excellent. The layered vocals, hand claps, chorus... all top notch.
Devil Never Sleeps- 2/10 not a fan.
Peace Beneath The City- 4/10 good, not great.
Flightless Bird, American Mouth- 8/10 good choice to close with. Sam does these type of songs very well. Some of the lyrics (american mouth?) could be better.
A very good, not great effort from I&W is still worlds better than most music out there today. We're blessed to have such a talent.
- Bold strokes and vivid colors
When I first got this I was totally thrown for a loop (pun not intended, but it does work here). I had bought the Woman King EP, so I knew he was exploring some different territory. But for this release, I thought he'd find some middle ground between that and his very acoustic and intimate earlier work.
I sorta liked it. I really wanted to like it. But it felt way too overproduced, especially the vocoder effect and all the mad layering. It was just too much.
Fast forward in time and a few dozen listens later: I love this album. It's easily one of his best. What's strange is it doesn't feel like the same artist. It's a completely different sound. But what I heard as "overproduced" before now has a dreamlike quality. In fact, the whole album feels like the soundtrack to a hallucinogenic road trip film. All the weird lyrical southern goth is still there. It's just that this one is painted in bold strokes using vivid colors rather than muted pastels.
I love all of Sam's work, and this is no exception. I'm glad to be able to say that now. It's not a perfect album; his sister's vocals get buried too much in the mix (if she's there at all). And this one takes time to appreciate. I'm not saying that's any guarantee that it will for everyone. But for me, it's a brave album that may be heavy on production, but also loaded with fantastic songwriting and sound sculpting....more info
- Can't stop listening to it!
What a nice surprise to have new album from such a great artist. The best new music I've heard this year. In particular, "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" - gives your ears exactly what they want to hear, "Innocent Banes" - has an amazing rythym, makes you want to just get up and dance, "Boy With a Coin," and "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car." Yes, the songs are layered with more sounds and polished more than his earlier albums, but his unique and captivating sound shines through as clear as ever. I only like this album more and more every time I listen to it....more info
- Just short of a masterpiece
I discovered this disc while killing time in a CD store. Just put on the headphones and with the opening bars of 'Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car' I thought "wow! this is different in a good way." and then I heard 'White Toothed Man' start and I knew I needed this album.
I think the album just falls short in the middle where there are 2 or 3 songs which are a little ununique. But then you reach 'Wolves' and 'Ressurection Fern' and it shifts again to unique brilliance.
For those not familiar with Iron & Wine's work, he sounds folky, but also with soft undertones of rock. He's really hard to compare because he is so new to my ear. Have a listen to the samples I guess. That should help you decide :-)...more info
- Invokes images of my loyal heeler working at a beautiful Hope, BC farm
It was worth the wait! This disc continues to grow on me more and more with every listening. It's still Sam Beam, but growing and expanding his talents. Lovely! I listened to it right after I got it while I drove up to BC, over and over (and better every time)....more info
- Wow !!!
I never heard of iron and wine till one of my friends told me about them I bought this cd and was like wow !! I love the calm music.What a great cd I am looking forward to buying the other cds when I have more money....more info
- I'm hooked on Iron & Wine!
I just discovered Iron & Wine and I have to have every CD! It is the kind of music that just makes you feel good. I recommend it to anyone, especially those who enjoys folk and indie music. ...more info
- Dont bother. Over-produced junk.
Over produced. I cant even listen to it. Shame on you Sam. Go back to what you do best and dont make me waste my money on another CD like this. This album should have never seen the light of day....more info