Iron & Wine
After first appearing two decades ago fronting his shape-shifting ensemble Iron & Wine—which released its debut album The Creek Drank the Cradle on Sub Pop in 2002—North Carolina resident Sam Bean has solidified his place as seasoned master of Americana-fueled indie-folk. The group hasn’t released an album of new material on its own since it dropped Beast Epic in 2017, but Beam has always been fond of collaboration, frequently cycling through new musicians in the touring lineup of his band as well as making records with other musicians, including Calexico, Jesca Hoop, and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses.
Still, no matter who’s writing and playing alongside him, there’s an instantly recognizable quality to Beam’s work: a meditative, beautiful lattice of guitars and keyboards, ethereal vocal harmonies, and rustic melodies that hint at almost every corner of American music without ever betraying any kind of stylistic hierarchy. Beam surrounds himself with excellent players who can deftly embroider his ruminative tunes, which unfurl patiently and usually over slow-to-mid-tempo rhythms, with subtly detailed accents. It’s like attending a campfire jam session, except there’s nothing misplaced or ragged about the execution.
More recently, amid an extended American tour with Andrew Bird, Beam released a four-song homage to singer and songwriter Lori McKenna, called Lori. Recorded at the famed Sam Phillips Studios in Memphis, TN, the collection of songs is a collaboration with Finom (formerly known as Ohmme, the Chicago duo of Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham).