Iron & Wine - Woman King CD Review - www.impulsegamer.com -
IRON & WINE
Woman King

 

Review Information

Reviewer: David Murcott
Review Date: October 2010

CD Information

Label: Sub Pop
Running Time:

9.0

out of 10

 

In a recording career spanning only a half dozen years Iron & Wine, otherwise known as Sam Beam, has created an important and immensely beautiful body of work.  From his lauded debut The Creek That Drank the Cradle to later releases like The Shepherd’s Dog, Beam has shown himself to be one of the most accomplished and consistent songwriters around.  Yet his Woman King EP may stand as the high-water mark of his entire canon.   

Textured, rich and luminous, the songs are infused with subtle biblical imagery and each feature a central female figure whose presence is all-pervasive; over the course of the album’s six tracks women are universally presented as powerful, almost divine, beings.  On the tender Jezebel, for instance, Beam croons ‘Lay down beside me, my love/yours is the only shape I’ll pray to.’  And on the album’s title track the object of his fixation is all-conquering: ‘Someday we may see a woman king, sword in hand, swing at some evil.’  The music is driven by Beam’s masterful yet restrained acoustic and slide guitars and the accompanying percussion is delicate and varied, while intersecting banjo, piano and guitar melodies contribute to the rhythmic flow.  The vocal delivery somehow manages to be gentle and powerful at the same time, and the usual Iron & Wine lyrical dexterity is prominent.  There aren’t many artists, for example, that could conjure a line like ‘Mary, carry your babe/bound up tight like lips around a whimper’.   

Woman King is also interesting lyrically in the sense that everyday objects are infused with a poetry and significance, as in the couplet ‘black horsefly, lemonade, jar on the red anthill/garden worm, cigarette, ash on the windowsill,’ or when the dangling sleeves of shirts on a clothesline ‘wave goodbye as we go.’  But the songs never venture far from their haunting, circular adulation: ‘Brave lady, you are gorgeous in your weakness/wet flowers on the ground’, contends Beam on Gray Stables, before asking ’could you see me in the darkness/waiting, nameless like a stone’.  Elsewhere he sums up the album’s lyrical motif is a single line: ‘Love is a fragile word’.   

Summary: Tender, beautiful and very possibly essential 

Download: Woman King, Gray Stables






 
 



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