I visited Iron & Wine's Web site yesterday while doing a bit of research for an upcoming Song of the Day essay — SPOILER: A song from Iron & Wine's new Around the Well collection is about to be featured on Song of the Day — and stumbled across this sentence in the middle of the band's news feed: "Also, the 8 acoustic versions of songs from The Shepherd's Dog are available again for free download. Enjoy the music. Thanks for listening."
Now, the existence of these recordings may be old news to diehards, but I was thrilled — so much so that I delayed listening to the new Wilco stream for an hour or two while I basked in eight gorgeous Iron & Wine songs, each stripped to their barest, warmest essentials. Balancing the intimacy of Sam Beam's early home recordings with the springy sweetness of his lush later material, they're a perfect companion to one of my favorite albums of 2007.
More to the point, it never hurts to pause and reflect on an age in which you can visit a Web site, click one button, and have eight beautiful songs legally dumped onto your desktop in a zip file for exactly zero dollars. I literally went from "Whoa, free songs!" to "Whoa, this is gorgeous!" in the span of 30 seconds. While I pause to thank the Internet for its very existence, a more important thank-you is in order: Thanks, Iron & Wine!
Anyone who's ever liked the band should download these songs immediately — and, if you like what you hear and haven't done so already, buy The Shepherd's Dog, too.
Any other recommendations for free (and legal) downloads people should know about? While you're thinking it over, feel free to peruse NPR Music's own free music downloads here.