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The Shepherd's Dog

4.3 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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


Woman King


The Sea & the Rhythm

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sub Pop
  • ASIN: B000TQZ7O4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,215 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Nelson on October 1, 2007
Format: Audio CD
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?
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OK, so you loved "Creek Drank The Cradle", but didn't like "Woman King" as much, but then "Our Endless Numbered Days" grew on you, but still your favorite is "Sea & The Rhythm" (and really you just want to hear Sam cover more Postal Service songs because Garden State is your favorite movie of all time, and you saw it way before anyone else), so you took a listen to "In The Reins" with Calexico, but it was too Western or Spanishy or something, so you went ahead and bought "Shepherd's Dog" anyway and now you're not sure what to say about it because there's more instruments and stuff.

Jeez people, give it a rest. This is a great album, and easily one of the best of 2007.

PS: If you buy the album directly from SubPop.com, you get a bonus CD of two extra songs: "Arms Of A Thief" & "Serpent Charmer".
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Format: Audio CD
Having just bought the album it hasn't had time to sink in yet like Sam Beam's other albums have, but seeing so few reviews on the page I figured I should contribute some first impressions. First off, if you're a fan of Iron & Wine already you shouldn't need to read a review, just purchase the CD now!

Iron & Wine (Sam Beam) has captivated listeners from his first album, "The Creek Drank the Cradle" (TCDTC) with his soft, restrained voice and simple, subtly perfect guitar work--and held them since. This album does not disrupt the slow transformation towards a more band driven, "fuller" sound, evident on each of his consecutive LP releases. The percussion is much more present in these songs than in, say, "Our Endless Numbered Days" or TCDTC (which really didn't have any). Lucky for us the percussion section really pulls it off, managing to become a solid "spine" for much of the album while remaining diverse, interesting, and spirited.

The lyrics are incredible as always, on par in my opinion with Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, though not necessarily as direct, or dark as those two can be. Although the lyrics are consistently poetic and beautiful they don't quite reach the level of emotion as on his first album TCDTC, nor do they feel as thematically related as his EP "Women King."

At the moment, the stand out tunes for me are 'Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)' and 'Resurrection Fern.' The first is rhythmically intense; a perfect example of the evolution of Sam Beam's sound and perhaps a hint at a more experimental future for Iron and Wine. At times this song sounds like a Tom Waits from Rain Dogs, and at other times it reminds me of Bob Marley's later years.
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Format: Audio CD
... Ok so I realize we all have different tastes in music but this album is simply phenomenal. Everytime I hear Resurrection Fern or Flightless Bird I find that I have to pause for the entire song just to take it in. The beautiful melodies in Sam Beam's songs coupled with lyrics that paint such a vivid portayal of life (particularly in the American Southeast) immediately transport me to the rural backroads of the South Carolina lowcountry. Having such a specific and immediate response to these songs is something that doesn't happen often and there are only a few records I own (i.e., Lucinda Williams' 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' and Son Volt's 'Trace') where I can close my eyes and visualize the lyrics almost as if I was there. I also love Beam's earlier work, 'The Creek Drank the Cradle' and 'Our Endless Numbered Days' for this same reason and don't think the greater production and added instruments on 'The Shepherd's Dog' detract in any way from its charm. Quite the opposite, really. I think this album warrants greater attention and more repeated listens than his earlier work to capture the detail. Easily 5 stars.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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