Tag Archives: Iron & Wine


Jesca Hoop Proves to Be a True Original at Mercury Lounge

March 9th, 2017

Jesca Hoop – Mercury Lounge – March 8, 2017

Jesca Hoop was once a nanny to Tom Waits’ kids, and she’s worked with everyone from Blake Mills and Stewart Copeland to Sam Beam, with whom the singer-songwriter released a gorgeous duets album in 2016 and subsequently toured. Hoop has signed to Sub Pop, and she’s a touch mystical—a vocalist and soothsayer from some faraway, possibly not terrestrial place—but she can tell a bar joke with the best of ’em. She’s accessible and impenetrable at the same time. An artist like that, you’d think, would be someone more written about than listened to, but listening to Hoop’s music is only the beginning of the larger embrace. Live, she’s quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) devastating. She formed a deep and detailed bond with an audience over the course of a 75-minute set at Mercury Lounge last night, framed by the recently released Memories Are Now, a collection of new Hoop songs that reveal more with each subsequent listen.

What do we call this? Hoop arrived as part of a four-piece band that included drums, bass, harmony vocals and other effects. Her music could sound trance-folkie, as in the opening one-two of “Songs of Old” and “Animal Kingdom Chaotic.” It could sound bittersweet and kind of country, as in “Peacemaker.” It could creep up and then, well, overcome you, as in “The Coming,” which thanks to some spectral-sounding guitar in its intro sounded distant and then was upon you. It’s cinematic—panoramic even—as Hoop created little worlds out of lyrics. “I refuse to think that my best friend’s going to hell anymore” is what might be called a classic Jesca Hoop line. So is “And now you gotta get it with what you’ve got/ With what you’ve been given or not” (from the late-in-set standout “Born To”). And so is “You say it’s impossible/ But your dumb computer says no.”

Hoop’s an artist in whom you can hear what you want to in her forbearers and potential influences. The mind drifts to Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Björk and plenty of others. When the mind settles, however—and you can really pause to hear and absorb the nuances when in the thrall of Hoop and band in the live setting—you feel like you’re hearing a true original. No one else quite sounds like this, and you’re thirsting for more when an unhurried set still goes by like a finger snap. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Iron & Wine Play Career-Spanning Show at the Space at Westbury

June 27th, 2014

Iron & Wine – the Space at Westbury – June 26, 2014

When you go see Iron & Wine, you know what you’re going to get but also don’t know what you’re going to get. Of course, there are going to be great songs, lots of them, overflowing with unique lyricism, imagery and melody, and you know you’ll have Sam Beam there to sing them to you. What you don’t always know is who will be playing with him, which will set the tone and style of the show. In past years, the sound has followed as Beam has toured with horns or backup singers or a stripped-down band. On Thursday night at the Space in Westbury, Beam played what he thought was his first show on Long Island proper, backed by a steady-as-she-goes roots-rock band that might be equally comfortable backing Bob Dylan these days, and the music followed suit.

The show opened with a terrific set from the Secret Sisters, out of Alabama, their vocal harmonies resonating to almost cosmic effect, while their backing band rumbled with soulful blues rock. The voices, the music, the set—which ranged across multiple styles of rock and roll, including covers of Hank Williams and their take on an unfinished Dylan piece—and the Sisters’ Southern charm easily won over the crowd. Beam and his band opened their career-spanning headlining set with a high-energy folk-shuffle version of “Boy with a Coin.” Banjo, acoustic guitar, organ, bass and drums nicely accented Beam’s agave-nectar natural-sweetener voice. The band flipped among instruments to widen the sound, Jim Becker moving from banjo to mandolin to acoustic-wired-electric guitar; Rob Burger moving from organ to Rhodes. Songs of exquisite beauty, like “House by the Sea,” with some nice double-acoustic guitar picking, led up to some momentum-building blues rock on songs like “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven.”

And while the band nicely worked the material, the set’s highlight was at the halfway point when Beam cast aside the extra musicians, first with a gorgeous duet with Burger on “Joy,” off his most recent album, Ghost on Ghost. This was followed by an all-request group of solo songs that stole the show. The enthusiastic crowd was up for the task, asking for some A-list material. All were great, but two songs stood out: First, Iron & Wine’s made-it-his-own, pure-light-and-good version of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” which certainly took away the breath from even the most cynical curmudgeon in the room. The poetic “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” was second, Beam’s voice shocking the not silenced easily audience into a silence beautiful in its absoluteness. The remainder of the show was a cascade of hits, featuring great versions of “Woman King,” “Rabbit Will Run” and the dark, slow build-to-climax encore of “Lovers Revolution.” It was a reminder of how many great songs Beam has to choose from, but really, no surprises there. —A. Stein





Iron & Wine – Beacon Theatre – May 14, 2013

May 15th, 2013

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

(Iron & Wine play the Capitol Theatre on Sunday, 5/19.)


Dressed to Impress

October 14th, 2011

Iron & Wine – Terminal 5 – October 13, 2011

When Sam Beam (d.b.a. Iron & Wine) came on the scene, his music was the lo-fi comfort of well-worn jeans and a T-shirt, almost literally a guy in his basement with an acoustic guitar. With each new album and tour, the outfit has become more and more elaborate so that last night at Terminal 5, when Iron & Wine took the stage, the musical equivalent of a sharp-dressed man, gussied up from head to toe in the finest duds and a $300 haircut to match. No less than 12 musicians filled the stage with a full horn section and three backup singers, giving the band more of a Saturday-night soul-revue feel than a folk-rock ensemble.

Opening with “Rabbit Will Run” off this year’s Kiss Each Other Clean, it was clear that every sound and detail had been meticulously placed. Flutes, horns, guitar and vocals all perfectly assembled, the music came off as both heavy and light at the same time. Going through the newer material, the band hinted at gospel, blues, funk and rock, with the mellow, soft side of Iron & Wine being the exception. At times, it seemed that Beam himself was superfluous to all that surrounded him.

But, contrary to what they say, the clothes don’t make the man; the man makes the man. Iron & Wine still is Sam Beam, whether in Armani or in Levi’s, as a brilliant stretch of older tunes near the end of the set left no doubt. Beam shined on a funked-up “Boy with a Coin,” “Peace Beneath the City” and a drawn-out spacey “Woman King” that went into a slow-burn baritone-sax solo. Not surprisingly, it was a superlative “Naked as We Came” with Beam, a mandolin and some support from his singers that was the highlight of the show. It was just Iron & Wine—the lyrics, the voice, the delicate melody, the coziest pair of jeans in the closet. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Alexis Maindrault | www.rockinpix.com


A Double Dose of Iron & Wine

October 11th, 2011

Remember on MTV Cribs when people would show their bedroom and say, “This is where the magic happens”? Well singer-songwriter Samuel Beam actually did create magic in his very own bedroom. In fact the songs he recorded there caught the attention of Sub Pop Records and ultimately led to the auspicious The Creek Drank the Cradle, the very first Iron & Wine release, in 2002. Since then, he’s gone on to release a raft of new music, EPs, LPs, compilations and live stuff. And although these recordings are much more high fidelity than his original offerings, Beam’s hallmark remains his deft lyrics and soft voice. Iron & Wine (above, doing “Lovesong of the Buzzard” at this year’s Austin City Limits) released a new disc, the well-received Kiss Each Other Clean, last winter. And you can see the band at Terminal 5 tomorrow with Low and on Thursday with the Low Anthem.