There are plenty of famous beards in the music world. For instance, there's the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens (now Yusaf Islam), Boise-born Doug Martsch of Built To Spill and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons / Dusty Hill, but not the sharp dressed band's drummer whose name is ironically Frank Beard. Speaking of facial hair fanatics, the bearded bandit behind Iron and Wine is Sam Beam, whose backwater back-story reveals his birth state as South Carolina and Gainesville Florida as the swampy place where his empyreal ass was raised.
The Shepherd's Dog is only the third studio slice of effervescence from Iron And Wine but Sam Beam, no relation to Jim, has released a bountiful cornucopia of singles and EPs, most notably his faultless cover of The Postal Service humdinger "Such Great Heights" which became the mesmerizing soundtrack for a chocolate candy commercial. Beam's charismatic style of dreamy folklore is as abstracted as it is finitely calculated. The luxurious guitars are like silent rides on the open highway of life, coasting through time with no one but pavement and quietude to call company.
The Shepherd's Dog isn't the kind of speaker blasting, jam packing, crowd mutilating freak-a-thon that legions of wild-eyed teens will pump out of the expensive sports utility vehicles paid in full by wealthy parents whose love for their children is ultimately priceless. This fetching keepsake is homegrown folk with rich roots in the fertile American soil which Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored way out west of the Mississippi in the early 1800s. These lenient tracks are less like shirtless hillbillies wearing nothing but overalls and more like that disturbing boy from Deliverance whose heavenly talent to arrange implausible melodies with a concordant demeanor is comparable to a campfire folk hero.
Picture Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco and Red House Painters barbequing near the old pond round suppertime when you drown your sorrows with man's new best friend, The Shepherd's Dog. Beam's cordial presence lacks the crazed deviance to kill a bottle of Southern Comfort and smash it over the heads Hank Williams Jr. or Johnny Cash yet his golden idiosyncrasies are too colorful and romantic for any redneck to fully embrace as "kiss-ass-take-names country." The refined voice behind the scraggly beard is the sound of permanent tranquilization, one powerful yet docile enough to serenade the planet into a sleep of peace.