When it first made a name for itself nine years ago, Iron and Wine was just another way of saying "Sam Beam" — as in, the majestically bearded bedroom folksinger whose stark, fatalistic musings were offset by soft-voiced, solo-acoustic arrangements. These days, Iron and Wine is a full band whose sound is elastic enough to feature guitar solos, backup singers and even a saxophone. Two weeks ago, Beam and a small army of supporting players performed their new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, in its entirety at WNYC's Greene Space, and the result was a full-blown roots-rock concert.
But for those who fell in love with Beam's spare solo work — mesmerizing ballads such as his hit cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" — he's been making the rounds as a solo performer, too, showcasing the songs from Kiss Each Other Clean in stripped-down fashion. So, even though we'd already presented and archived Iron and Wine's performance at the aforementioned Greene Space, we couldn't resist the chance to have Beam show a fresh side of his new songs behind Bob Boilen's desk in the NPR Music offices. (What can we say? Most of us didn't take the trip up to New York, and we're greedy.)
Naturally, the resulting four-song set is gorgeous, with three songs from Kiss Each Other Clean — "Half Moon," "Big Burned Hand" and "Tree by the River" — capped off by what's become Iron and Wine's signature set-closer, "Naked As We Came." A timeless tear-jerker about devotion and fragility, permanence and death, that 2004 song hasn't lost a shred of its power to devastate. As Iron and Wine's sound gets bigger and harder to define, "Naked As We Came" will always accomplish everything it needs with just a voice and fingers on strings.
- "Half Moon"
- "Big Burned Hand"
- "Tree By The River"
- "Naked As We Came"
Michael Katzif (cameras); edited by Bob Boilen; photo by Abby Verbosky