Recordings

    You wouldn’t know it from the mainstream music press, but the ol’ U.S. of A is going through something of a folk revival these days. Not the Kumbaya- around- the- campfire kind of folk you learned in Girl Scouts, but a more mysterious, sophisticated sound that traces as much of its genealogy to the hill country of Mississippi as to any coffee shop in Greenwich Village.

    Iron and Wine – Woman King EP

    As the acclaimed Iron and Wine, Floridian Samuel Beam is on the forefront — quality-wise, anyway — of the new folk revival. With Woman King, Beam takes a decisive step from the moody sparsity of his last two albums, finally accompanying his ruminations with music that matches their emotional intensity. Multilayered arrangements with exotic percussion, slide and electric guitars, warm bass and even piano make sure his songs groove as they muse, developing the nuanced rhythms that made his earlier work so rich. Beam’s sister, Sarah, again supplies gorgeous background vocals, aiding what seems like a mission to soothe us postmodern casualties with the grainy truths of domestic life. That this EP is such a step for Beam is especially evident in “Gray Stables,” where, for the first time, Beam steps out of his reclusive whisper to actually sing.

    Woman King is full of such subtle revelations, which begs an important question: Why aren’t more ears listening?

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