Iron and Wine – Woman King EP

Iron and Wine
Woman King EP

Not content to rest on his laurels as his sophomore release, Our Endless Numbered Days continues to rack up the accolades and bring new fans to Miami’s Sam Beam, the singer/songwriter offers Woman King a surprisingly full EP of six songs loosely grouped around themes of women figures. Recorded near the end or just after his Our Endless Numbered Days sessions, these songs show Beam developing his sound beyond that of a bedroom musician playing his acoustic guitar.

There’s significantly more percussion on Woman King, as well as more electric guitar presence. This is felt immediately, as the title track starts things off with rhythm, the guitar warbling in behind the light percussion. Beam’s softly wonderful voice mixes perfectly with that of his sister, Sarah, and the song has a sweetly up-tempo feel. On “Gray Stables,” the very earthy rhythm and the vocal harmonies give the song a Crosby, Stills & Nash kind of feel. The closing “Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song)” rides the rhythm as well and features some wonderful strings and powerful guitar that greatly add to the song’s lofty feel.

Beam isn’t changing the sound of Iron & Wine drastically. The music is still sweet and softly folk-influenced, as heard on “Jezebel,” which shines on his vocals and a surprisingly chiming guitar. “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” is a rollicking and upbeat track with a traditional Southern feel. Beam’s songwriting has always been the defining element of Iron & Wine, and it’s evident on these tracks, especially the lovely “My Lady’s House” with its gentle and loving theme.

I admire any musician who’s willing to change his or her style, to continually thrive to get better and different. Many artists who achieve the kind of success Beam has had would try to milk the fame, but Beam is continuously evolving, and he proves his genius in the remarkable ability to never get worse. Much more of a full band release, Woman King is just the latest chapter in one of this generation’s most talented singer/songwriter’s rapidly expanding oeuvre.