The Iron & Wine name is actually the stage moniker for Sam Beam, a songwriter who had been recording independently for many years before he garnered the attention of the Subpop label. His initial album, 2002’s Creek Drank the Cradle, was the result of two albums worth of home recordings, the album itself still showing signs of being a collection of demos. But with Our Endless Numbered Days, Beam came into his own as a songwriter fully at home in a professional studio, with a crisper production albeit with the skeletal beauty of the songs intact.
“Naked As We Came” is one of my favourites off of that very good album. Basically, it is a treatise on the inevitability of death, particularly the reality all couples will face: one will have to bury the other. This could have been a pretty morbid track, if not for the autumnal beauty that seems to pour out of it. And you get the sense that death that isn’t really the focus anyway. It’s more about putting the moments we share with someone else in our lives into perspective, moments made precious by the fact that they are finite too.
Beam’s sound has been compared with Nick Drake, along with legions of other songwriters who leave spaces in the music, and sing in hushed, breathy tenor voices. Yet, I think Iron & Wine songs offer something extra. There is a hint of old-timey bluegrass textures in there too. And I think Beam’s voice is more like Barry Gibb’s folk-pop croon, as found on early Bee-Gees albums like Odessa, more than it does Nick Drake. Check out the Bee Gees “First of May” to see what I mean.
Read this interview with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam which talks about Iron & Wine songs as used in a number of movies and TV shows, which they certainly have been. You’ll notice too that there is quite a bit of debate around this in the comments section. I have my own ideas about artists licensing their work to other media, which may appear in an upcoming article soon.
And for more music, news, and tour information, check out the Iron & Wine MySpace page.