Iron & Wine – Around The Well

img_1_thArtist: Iron & Wine
Album: Around The Well
Genre: Folk
Label: Sub Pop

Oh the often made, rarely useful rarities record. In the age of the internet it has become more and more unnecessary for bands to physically release these so called b-sides because if a single person has them and uploads them, we all have them. However, in the case of new age folk royals Iron & Wine, probably cause does exist. Over the chorus of multiple albums, EPs, and various tracks for compilations, most of the 23 [that’s right, TWENTY THREE] tracks on Around The Well, out May 19th, have indeed been the material of hearsay until now.

I feel as if this collection could be summarized by simply stating the Samuel Beam is a genius, but that would be too easy. His voice and talent on the guitar are seemingly unmatched by today’s standards and seem to beckon to a time when James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel were in their prime. Starting off with, “Dearest Forsaken,” and, “Morning,” showcase the general quality and sound of the record perfectly. The quality is a bit weak at times, but with this style of music, it fits perfectly and most of the songs are guitar and vocals only, making every listen feel very intimate. Sam sounds still unsure of himself on, “Peng! 23,” but the track succeed regardless. Later, there is a similar feel to the guitar playing on, “Friends They Are Jewels,” yet, once again, thanks to the amazing vocal abilities of Beam, it soars. Also solid to note on the first hlaf of the record is the delicate, yet perfectly placed piano accompaniment of piano on, “Swans and The Swimming.”

The second chunk of the record has just as many, if not more gems than the first. The obvious first to mention is The Postal Service cover, “Such Great Heights,” which, may be more popular than the original. Beam got a lot of attention for this recording, so it’s a must for most fans, but it is good to see it on a full release from I&W. The band comes in for a near Johnny Cash like rhythm on, “Belated Promise Ring,” which would have fit beautifully on The Shepherd’s Dog. Though jsut over 90 sec. in length, “Homeward These Shoes” has such great imagery that one will wish it to last for much longer. Then, closer to the end we get a solid one-two with, “No Moon,” a near blues like track and, “Serpent Charmer,” a track that simply shows the full band blending wonderfully. Everything is then capped off with the longest and most popular Iron & Wine original, “The Trapeze Swinger.” This song, made for the film In Good Company is simply timeless.

I don’t know if the world would shine as bright without Samuel Beam and his music. His talent for songwriting and instrumentation seems to transecend time and trends and even though Around The Well is nothign more than a compilation of rarities, it still stands stronger than most group’s most earnest works. It’s beautiful and delicate, yet full of wit and wonder. If you get a chance, catch Sam and the gang live, but if you can’t, this will do just fine. Trust me, this is required summer listening.

Score: 9.7/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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