Ol’ big beard Sam Beam is back with a record that he says harks back to his earlier works such as ‘The Creek Drank the Cradle’. This brings Beam’s work a full circle as he seems to be rediscovering the simplicity that made those records such hushed delights. This his his 5th album and contains the type of songs that Beam hinself admits he does best.
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He’s just doing his thing. Folksy guitars, a supplementary string section of one, the occasional piano chord and the odd thrum of a drum. ‘Beast Epic’ is Iron & Wine at its most basic, and yet its most complete; this is a band Sam Beam has been nurturing into quiet contemplation for a good fifteen years now.
A lovely, earthy album that revives some of Beam’s early terrestrial stoicism, it seems no coincidence that this record comes after ‘Love Letter for Fire’, a collaboration with the jagged folk musings of Jesca Hoop. That country rock affects this record with the same vivid wide-screening, with tunes like “Bitter Truth” and “Call it Dreaming” focusing on particular flourishes and guitar inflections. “Summer Clouds”, a palm-muted dirge, is joined with pretty acoustic picking, depth-plumbed piano chords and dust-sifting twang. Beam carries the record with an economical atmosphere wrought of little more than his original country tools.
Some of the newer, weirder, jazzier Sam Beam still exists in this record’s DNA, though it’s more like he took the ideas practiced on ‘Ghost on Ghost’ and ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’ and repurposed them for an older, ditty-making version of himself. “Last Night”, with its ear-blasting intro, chiming instrumentation and silky rhythm, should feel out of place, but ultimately occupies the same, contented space as the record of folk lamentations around it. ‘Beast Epic’ is the kind of record that reminds you how good an artist can be when they simply know themselves.
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- Beast Epic by Iron and Wine
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