Iron and Wine "Ghost on Ghost"

Iron and Wine offers a mellow mix of soulful rock interspersed with thoughtful introspection. One of the best of the year!

 Sam Beam has come a long way since his early stark, bedroom recordings. The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days were intensely introspective, quiet affairs with minimal instrumentation and nearly whispered vocals. Since then Beam, the brainy core of Iron and Wine, has added layers of instrumentation, multiple musicians, an intermingling of genres, and lots of emotional tension. Iron and Wine is a band that has invited us into the process of its evolution with each new release.

 Ghost on Ghost lacks the relentless tension of earlier albums like The Shepherd’s Dog. There are taut moments when Beam dissects isolation and alienation, as on “Winter Prayer,” but these points only underscore the general positive mood of the record as a whole. As a lyricist Beam walks a fine line between academic literalism and poetic flights of fancy. Often his metaphors cast a biblical shadow although Beam is quick to point out that he is not of a religious nature. It is Beams contradictive nature that adds depth to his songs.

 Beams penchant for experimenting with new instrumentation and genres has kept the band moving down different paths. Horns and saxophone have become more predominant on latter records. Ghost on Ghost offers both soul and jazz oriented charts. On recent albums Beam had a global bent but here he pulls back to an American-centric focus. “Baby Center Stage” features pedal steel guitar while “The Desert Babbler” sports soulful 70s chorus and strings section, reminiscent of My Morning Jacket’s approach on several of their recent releases.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)