Iron and Wine
"Around the Well"

(Sub Pop 2009)Iron and Wine - Around the Well

There’s something ever so humbling about the hiss and crackle recordings of bare bones singer-songwriter Sam Beam…something that tames the pop culture beast, with an uncanny ability to satisfy at the same time. Never have a simple acoustic guitar and voice come together in as powerful a way as they do on “Around the Well,” the two-disc effort consisting of everything that represents Mister Beam and his recording vehicle of choice: Iron and Wine.

The simplicity of disc one IS its beauty; complete with string rubbing and instrument thumping in lead track “Dearest Forsaken” and continuing through the hushed cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” A constant buzz of air gently whispering in the background of the entire disc adds to its at-home atmosphere, and when sprinkled with Beam’s introspective lyrics it becomes impossible not to picture yourself fireside on a campsite in the mountains. On “Hickory,” Beam croons ever so quietly “she’ll never love him but knows that her father will;” an ode to love that has become a theme to many of his songs. As the first disc comes to a close, Iron and Wine adds the support of a band, resulting in…well, the same mellowness, but with more instruments.

The finger picked guitar that opens “Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat” instantly departs from the ruggedness of the first disc, yet keeps the same simplicity that dominates the entire two disc set. “Sinning Hands” picks up the pace slightly, as it enters with a “kick kick snare” beat that immediately invokes a head nod. Beam’s voice gently floats over the beat, as if riding down the stream that is “Around the Well” as it caresses the listener’s ears. For an unusual electro-tribal beat (or as “electro-tribal” as you can imagine from Iron and Wine), tune to “Carried Home,” where piano trills add a slight color to the music. As the disc two winds to a close, the track “Arms of a Thief” adds a more upbeat funk style to the record, where a low-end focus intertwines with slide guitar and banjo, and even a few ba-ba’s in the background.

Iron and Wine craft a beautifully basic two disc set in “Around the Well,” leaving something that will stick to your ear canals as a disease that you do not care to be freed from. It is flat out contagious, leaving nothing to the imagination. There need not be any mention of the ease of interpretation in Beam’s covers of the Flaming Lips’ “Waitin’ for a Superman” and New Order’s “Love Vigilantes, for they speak for themselves. As you reflect on the listening experience of “Around the Well,” and in the words of Sam Beam himself, you can rest at ease, for you’ve been “carried home.”

A

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