Bring on the Wine (and Iron)

On his third full-length release, Iron and Wine discovered percussion. Sam Beam, the name behind the bearded singer/songwriter, has transitioned away from the soothing strumming and peaceful guitar picking of 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days.

On The Shepherd’s Dog, Iron and Wine employs bongo drums, twangy guitars, slides and numerous effects pedals. While this may sound like blasphemy to many, take a fair listen. It actually works.

The Shepherd’s Dog isn’t a complete departure from Iron and Wine’s original style; “Resurrection Fern” is a reassuring and familiar tune with a noticeable bass line.

But “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” is a perfect example of their newfound techniques. During the song’s three-minute jam, a wah-pedal sounds underneath guitars and percussion that crashes like melodic pots and pans. “Boy With a Coin” may be the best song on the album, since it rolls along with steady claps. “The Devil Never Sleeps” is a two-minute blues jam with tinkling keys, a walking bass and feedback guitars.

It may take a few listens to adjust to Iron and Wine’s new album, but The Shepherd’s Dog shows how a band can mature and expand its sound in a successful way.

Hilary Saunders may be contacted at