"And no one is the savior they would like to be/The love song of the buzzard in the dogwood tree" —from "Lovesong of the Buzzard"
In case you haven't heard, banjos and slide guitars are back in style. Over the past few years, artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine—the stage/recording name for singer/songwriter Sam Beam—have inspired a folk revival in the indie music world.
Beam first drew notice in 2002 with his lo-fi debut The Creek Drank the Cradle, but it was his inclusion on the popular Garden State soundtrack two years later that guaranteed adoration on college campuses everywhere (including Wheaton College, where Beam is set to perform a solitary concert on February 15 between touring overseas). Drawing comparisons with Nick Drake, Iron & Wine has done much with sparse textures, winning listeners with elegant melodies, imagistic lyrics, and an intimate vocal delivery, as if he were planting confessions in your privileged ear.
Beam's sound expanded on subsequent releases (electric guitar!), evolving Iron & Wine into a full-sized outfit by 2007's The Shepherd's Dog. Though the banjo jangle hasn't vanished, it's joined here by playful piano, weaving string layers, electronic effects, sitar drones and more aggressive percussion, which is indicative of Beam's professed interest in African music.
Biblical references have also been a mainstay for Iron & Wine, though never more abundantly than on The Shepherd's Dog with allusions to God, the Devil, Noah, and more. However, though raised in a Christian home in South Carolina, Beam today considers himself an agnostic, explaining his songwriting to Relevant magazine by noting that the Bible is full of "characters that everyone understands, and it's a huge ...1