Date of Release: 16-Apr-2013
Yet another solid outing from Beam and Co.
South Carolina’s finest songwriter, Samuel Beam, returned in 2013 with a new album entitled Ghost on Ghost. Beam’s fifth album released under the Iron & Wine moniker is a departure of sorts from his recent releases. Always based on a template of acoustic guitars and hushed vocals, 2011’s Kiss Each Other Clean and (especially) 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog seemed intent to cram the sonic landscape with a witch’s brew of sounds borrowed from funk, soul, and dub reggae. Ghost on Ghost simplifies the template, not quite all the way back to his early lo-fi days but still sounding relaxed and comfortable in his own skin.
“Caught in the Briars” opens the album, a punchy tune accented with tastefully deployed horns and layers of percussion. “Low Light Buddy of Mine” is quietly urban and sophisticated, the sort of song you might expect to hear while wandering past a late-night jazz club. Fans of Belle & Sebastian’s breezy pop flair will find much to love about album centerpiece “Grace for Saints and Ramblers”, while “New Mexico’s No Breeze” sounds like a long-forgotten AM radio hit circa 1976.
The slinky rhythms return to prominence on the standout track “Singers and the Endless Song”, while Beam muses about the passage of stories from one generation to the next through song. The album’s most wistful moments unfold in the quiet acoustic number “Winter Prayers”, a note-perfect soundtrack for watching snowflakes fall to earth in the glow of the streetlights.
Ghost on Ghost is not a perfect record, nor does it push the limits of musical texture quite like Sam Beam’s previous work. But there will always be a place in my music collection for well-written, artfully arranged songs by a master craftsman.