The best music often blends the old with the new to create something fresh and invigorating. The past becomes much more than some iconic, lifeless repository found on classic rock stations; it’s a still-vibrant font of inspiration. Iron & Wine’s debut provides a good example.
Iron & Wine is really just Sam Beam, a Florida cinematography teacher with a penchant for writing beautiful songs and gifted with an angelic voice to deliver them. Beam calls to mind other current acts like M. Ward and solo Damien Jurado for their low-fi warmth and deeply personal viewpoints. But you can also hear the echoes of old-time songwriters like Neil Young and Nick Drake in Beam’s acoustic purity and unapologetic romanticism.
The mix is seamless. Brief vignettes or portraits feature gently strummed or finger-picked acoustic and slide guitars, an occasional banjo, and the close harmonies of Beam as he reveals acutely intimate histories.
He spins out gorgeous couplets with misleading ease; there’s a head-turner in practically every song. When the wayward narrator of "Up Over the Mountain" tells his mother that "sons are like birds flying upward over the mountain," or an ex-lover declares, "We gladly run in circles / But the shape we meant to make / is gone" ("Lion’s Mane"), you can just about hear hearts rend.
It’s all delivered in hushed, sometimes whispered tones, but there’s nothing secret about the healing powers of this record, proof that the past and present can coincide and prosper.