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Sam Beam's venturesome The Shepherd's Dog

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Iron & Wine
The Shepherd's Dog
Sub Pop Records
Release Date: 09/25/2007

Iron & Wine, Sam Beam's moniker, is one of those prolific songwriters that can pump out album after album of, for the most part, flawless tunes. I'd like to think that he just wakes up one day, arbitrarily decides to go into the studio, and then effortlessly bangs them out. On The Shepherd's Dog, Iron & Wine consciously explores a variety of sounds, deviating from the minimal lullaby style of Our Endless Numbered Days. I can't say it sounds as though Beam simply popped out these meticulously crafted songs.

"Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" opens the album, demonstrating a buoyant, transformed Iron and Wine. Repetitious jazz-piano wanders aimlessly, punctuated by reversing sitar-like guitars, and Beam exhibits his lyrical genius: "Now was a promise made of smoke in a frozen coax of dreams." This song justly represents the sonic harbinger of what's to come on The Shepherd's Dog. What an outstanding opening track.