Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

Last year at the Austin City Limits festival I had the chance to see Iron & Wine live for the first time. My exposure to them was 2004's excellent Our Endless Numbered Days and the equally impressive Woman King EP. I was curious how these stripped down acoustic tunes would translate to a festival crowd and I was a bit skeptical that it would be the right atmosphere for such a show (especially considering I chose to see them over Kings of Leon and Explosions in the Sky, who both played at the same time as I&W). Surprisingly the show was exceptionally upbeat and more of a complete band feel rather than just a guy and a guitar. Touring with a full band obviously influenced their newest album, The Shepherd's Dog, which came out today on Sub Pop. Iron & Wine's brilliant 2005 collaboration with Calexico, Into The Reins, was clearly a big influence on this fuller sound as well. Never before has Iron & Wine made such an immediately engaging album. Their first albums were comprised mostly of guitar, vocals and Sam Beam's exceptional songwriting. This time the songwriting is still there but the music is much more interesting than before. Rather than being a late-night/early-morning type album, The Shepherd's Dog flirts with afro-pop, dub reggae and southwestern sounds. It's their most accessible album to date and will satisfy any previous Iron & Wine fans and most likely it will make a lot of new ones.

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