12 Songs, 43 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

With each successive album Sam Beam explores new creative styles and becomes less recognizable to those who remember the quiet, lo-fi recordings that stood as his introduction to the music world. Beam is too restless a soul to confine himself to single sound and Ghost On Ghost, his fifth album, grabs a ticket for the AM Radio of the 1970s when a singer-songwriter like Paul Simon tried on new grooves and R&B, soft rock and lite-jazz all could be heard in a single listening. "Grace For Saints and Ramblers" cranks up the electric piano and the female backing choruses for a classic track that slips between genres. "Grass Widows" takes things further with another jazzy electric piano, a smart horn section and a Beam vocal that shadows John Lennon with its lonely echo. "Singers and the Endless Song" has traces of the reflective cadences of Our Endless Numbered Days but with a slew of friends busting things out. Tony Garnier's bass lines, Brian Blade's clean but animated drum fills, and Josette Newsome and Carla Cook's backing vocals ensure Beam is lonely no more.

EDITORS’ NOTES

With each successive album Sam Beam explores new creative styles and becomes less recognizable to those who remember the quiet, lo-fi recordings that stood as his introduction to the music world. Beam is too restless a soul to confine himself to single sound and Ghost On Ghost, his fifth album, grabs a ticket for the AM Radio of the 1970s when a singer-songwriter like Paul Simon tried on new grooves and R&B, soft rock and lite-jazz all could be heard in a single listening. "Grace For Saints and Ramblers" cranks up the electric piano and the female backing choruses for a classic track that slips between genres. "Grass Widows" takes things further with another jazzy electric piano, a smart horn section and a Beam vocal that shadows John Lennon with its lonely echo. "Singers and the Endless Song" has traces of the reflective cadences of Our Endless Numbered Days but with a slew of friends busting things out. Tony Garnier's bass lines, Brian Blade's clean but animated drum fills, and Josette Newsome and Carla Cook's backing vocals ensure Beam is lonely no more.

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Customer Reviews

4 out of 5

324 Ratings

Outstanding

chadmoone,

If you listened to—I don't know—the last 4 albums and liked them, then you will love this. If you never got over the fact that Sam Beam moved beyond a 4-track and acoustic guitar, then maybe you should stop shopping for new music.

The big band is just not working.

anklesinriver,

I feel for this guy. I understand that he doesn't want to make Our Endless Numbered Days for the rest of his career. I assume he wants to be challenged in writing and in the studio, and perhaps more importantly, to enjoy playing the music on the road, which is undoubtedly more fun with a big band than playing solo. But while this record is an improvement over the last one, it's just not satisfying to this listener. There's no sense of emotion conveyed; it's just sort of a pleasant exercise.

Sam's greatest strength has always been his lyrics. But the lyrics are overwhelmed by the band. Sam has a unique and beautiful voice, but it's too delicate to carry a large band. It sounds out of place. Whereas his voice was very enjoyable in his previous sparse arrangements, it almost becomes irritating when buried in the mix with the band. Sam's voice is like a raspberry. Outstanding with one or two other simple ingredients but easily overwhelmed. Add too many competing flavors, and you lose what made a raspberry great to begin with. Simplicity is the key.

Sufjan Stevens has the same dilemma. Age of Adz didn't work. Synths work for some people, but they did not flatter his voice. I hope Sam and Sufjan both find ways to satisfy their desires for progress and change, but in formats that suit their voices. Next go around, subdue that band and bring the vocals way, way up in the mix.

About Iron & Wine

Singer/songwriter Samuel Beam, who rose to prominence with a blend of whispered vocals and softly homespun indie folk, chose the moniker Iron and Wine after coming across a dietary supplement named "Beef Iron & Wine" while working on a film. Raised in South Carolina, Beam received his bachelor's degree in art from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and later his Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University Film School. Although Beam would later expand his sound to include electric instruments and rich, lush textures, he was firmly exploring the former style when several of his lo-fi recordings caught the ear of Jonathan Poneman, co-owner of Sub Pop Records. The songs had been recorded in Beam's bedroom without the aid of studio flourishes, but Poneman nevertheless requested that additional material be sent to the label for submission, and Beam responded by sending two CDs in the mail -- both of them full-length albums. Poneman considered releasing them both, but instead slimmed down the set to 12 songs and released it in September 2002 as The Creek Drank the Cradle. The similarly themed The Sea & the Rhythm EP followed in 2003.

It was Beam's 2004 full-length, Our Endless Numbered Days, that signaled his arrival on the indie pop scene. Recorded in Chicago with producer Brian Deck, the album was resolutely hi-fi, but the addition of a full band only illuminated Beam's deft lyricism and intimate vocal delivery, resulting in one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. Late 2004 found the newly marketable Iron and Wine popping up on television commercials and movie soundtracks (In Good Company, Garden State), culminating in a busy 2005 that saw Beam release two EPs, the lush Woman King and In the Reins, a collaboration with Arizona spaghetti Western aficionados Calexico. The politically charged Shepherd's Dog, Beam and company's most diverse -- and most listenable -- record to date, was released in 2007. A two-disc collection of B-sides, rarities, soundtrack inclusions, and discarded tracks from the Iron and Wine archives called Around the Well arrived in early 2009. Kiss Each Other Clean, Iron and Wine's first collection of new music in nearly three years and one that found Beam further expanding the group's sound, was released in January 2011 by their new label, Warner Bros. After a move to 4AD and Nonesuch, Iron and Wine released the more relaxed and intimate Ghost on Ghost in early 2013. The Brian Deck-produced album featured jazz drummer Brian Blade and bassist Tony Garnier of Bob Dylan's band, among others. Together with Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell, Beam released a covers album titled Sing into My Mouth in 2015. The record featured versions of songs from the likes of Talking Heads, John Cale, and Sade. ~ James Christopher Monger

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