There's a metaphor somewhere in Sam Beam's hair. Something that equates his newly expansive locks with the richer, full-bodied sound he now peddles as Iron and Wine. Something that correlates the furtive minimalism of his early recordings (done while he was teaching film at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art & Design) with the then-presentable-to-non-Arthur-readers shorn look he had at the time. But meditating on a musician's hair is a little Teen Beat, isn't it? Nonetheless, Beam has marked a clear division between his "early" period and his current phase, and his head tells only part of the story.
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With a new home (in Austin, Texas, rather than Florida), new bandmates, and a more fully colored-in musical approach, Beam has pushed Iron and Wine into a new evolutionary period. The new I&W LP, The Shepherd's Dog, has him and his new collaborators eschewing the acoustic, front-porch minimalism of before and instead plying richly textured soundscapes built around Beam's still-unique song structures. Organic instrumentation is still the key, but it's rendered in an unapologetically lush manner; accordingly, the live presentation puts more of a focus on the effect of the ensemble. Beam is still the center of attention, but with that hair, how could he not be?