Floridas brilliant singer-songwriter Sam Beam expands Iron & Wine from solo project to a gaggle of friends and family on slide guitar, percussion, and backing vocals on his second album. Fans need not worry--the hushed immediacy and rich melodies remain the focus--but new flavors abound. For instance, the strange "Cinder And Smoke" sounds like a collaboration (with banjos of course) between America
, Robert Wyatt
. Meanwhile, "On Your Wings," "Free Until They Cut Me Down," and "Teeth in the Grass" showcase a brooding, earthy, Southern-rock-on-laudanum side that the band had previously only demonstrated in concert. It's rare when an artist who's become known for bedroom recordings makes the transition to the studio to produce work that's better--Daniel Johnston
, Lou Barlow
, and Liz Phair
all made their defining moments crouched above a cassette recorder at home. But Beam is the exception to the rule, as he has easily bested himself on the second Iron & Wine album. --Mike McGonigal
On his second full-length, Sam Beam "...launches balloons of sweetly whispered regret over trance-inducing backwoods string arrangements and watches them float away, his heart in tow"--Entertainment Weekly. "Equally assured with sweetly lilting pop and doom struck ballads, Beam invests these songs with hypnotic beauty and sparkling melody, making them as accessible as they are affecting"--The Onion.