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The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

This review was first published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005

Iron and Wine

A review of the EP 'Woman King'

Iron and Wine - Woman KingReview Snapshot:
This six-song EP encapsulates the not-much-heard-of genius of songsmith Iron & Wine.

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10.

Full review:
Bright Eyes, Jesse Malin, M. Ward, Willy Mason, Josh Ritter, Adam Green, Mason Jennings, Josh Rouse, Devendra Banhart and Ray LaMontagne all represent the current tidal wave of shrewd male songwriters streaming from America. Throw into that mix, Sam Beam.

Florida native Beam (aka Iron & Wine) has been slowly edging toward international recognition with two excellent releases in 'Creek Drank The Cradle' and 'Our Endless Numbered Days' on the Sub Pop label. This EP is further proof to why he should be mentioned as one of the best American singer/songwriters currently around.

Beam's lyrical style would be best described as structured poetic scribblings entailing perspectives on feelings and all aspects of life. He sings on 'My Lady's House' - 'Thank God you see me the way you do / strange as you are to me', revealing a candid intimacy that suits his distinctive vocals.

Throughout this EP is evidence of Beam's songwriting expertise, wherein he takes the simplest of feelings and transforms them into effective lyrics e.g. 'Lady, you were gorgeous in your weakness' on 'Gray Stables'. Alongside his lyrical talent are his distinctive vocals, which hum like a sensitive growl.

What is different on this EP compared with his previous recordings is the production. The arrangements of each song squeeze in banjos, percussion, violins and piano while Beam's vocals tether with a brooding delicacy. Producer Brian Deck has cleverly involved various instruments (and backing vocals of Sarah Beam) around Beam's singing, which results in a more wholesome aftertaste. This all works to perfection on the beautiful 'Jezebel' - the kind of song that has the ability to stop you in mid-conversation and astound you on every listen. And as soon as the last track 'Evening On The Ground (Lilith's Song)' ends, you will start all over again, familiarising yourself with the poignant lyrics.

Continuing this wholesome approach in the future, be it with or without Deck, will surely result in a successful formula for Iron & Wine. If this were a full-length album, it would be an early contender for album of the year. Although it is only six songs long, 'Woman King' is Beam's finest recording yet. With a new album in the works and collaboration with Calexico on the way, Iron & Wine will be an artist to make more space for in your collection. 

Gareth Maher

(bullet) To buy a copy of this EP on Amazon just click here.

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