Iron & Wine

By Brad East

WHEN: 2002 – present


ALBUMS: The Creek Drank the Cradle (2002); The Sea & The Rhythm EP (2003); Our Endless Numbered Days (2004); Woman King EP (2005); In the Reins EP (with Calexico; 2005); The Shepherd’s Dog (2007); Around the Well (2009)

HOW: I came to know of Iron & Wine like a lot of people, when Garden State came out in 2004. The next year I got his (I’ll keep the “his” instead of “their,” although who knows what’s better) second LP, Our Endless Numbered Days, and … enjoyed it as background music. It was enjoyable, and there were a few great tracks, but I just couldn’t get myself into it.

But, I kept putting OEND on to study, and it grew on me. And grew on me. At some point, I realized that there was more to this than just plucked guitar and a soft voice. I actually remember sitting in an apartment in Tomsk, Russia, in June of 2007, and deciding spontaneously to download all of Iron & Wine’s EPs and B-sides on iTunes. I was greatly anticipating the release of The Shepherd’s Dog that August, and I wanted to expand my I&W vocabulary. The combination of the EPs and Shepherd’s Dog finally did me in. I got it.

WHY: More than most bands, Iron & Wine takes time to learn. Sam Beam is a quiet force of nature, and in order to come under his yoke, you have to submit to the discipline of learning the themes, the images, the habits and characters that make up his music. The simplicity that lies beneath the complex guitar picking and multiple harmonies, in concert with the southern narrative poetic style of his lyrics, is extraordinarily compelling, and often beautiful. This is not even to mention the remarkable consistency of quality over the decade comprising his work, much less the diversity of instruments and styles on display. In many ways Sam Beam is one of the most exciting musicians working today, and he is at the peak of his powers.

SONGS: I wanted, of course, to draw not only on I&W’s three LPs, but also from the myriad compilations and EPs, and thus the whole of the mix is pleasantly diverse and cohesive together. Some of the non-LP/EP songs were gathered into this year’s Around the Well double disc collection, but I put the original location to find them. Some favorites include the more or less perfect “Resurrection Fern,” the percussively biblical “Woman King,” the heart-wrenching cover of “Love Vigilantes,” and the brilliant outro “Dead Man’s Will.” As well, see the couple representative collaborations with Calexico, “Dark Eyes” (a cover of the Bob Dylan song) and “History of Lovers.” “The Trapeze Swinger” is epic, profound, and whenever I listen to it I imagine a short film adaptation of Wendell Berry’s short story “Making It Home” as directed by Terrence Malick or David Gordon Green. And “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” is, simply, gorgeous.

I hope you enjoy.

LINK: Click the list below to hear IRON & WINE for free on!


Brad East is co-creator and editor of 80 Minutes For Life, and blogs at Resident Theology. He is currently in the middle of his Master’s of Divinity at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and loves Wilco, Mexican food, the San Antonio Spurs, and attending midnight showings at the Alamo Drafthouse with his wife. Also, he is from Texas.

~ by Brad East on December 7, 2009.

2 Responses to “Iron & Wine”

  1. “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” may be one of the most perfect songs I’ve ever heard. Great list!

  2. YES! Great list, my friend.

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