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Iron And Wine
Woman King
Sub Pop Records

Samuel Beam, in the guise of Iron And Wine, has been known for his unique brand of acoustic guitar and banjo-heavy downbeat, quiet music for what approaches half a decade now. On Woman King, Beam makes a few changes to his trademark sound, and introduces his sullen introspection to the voices of gritty distortion and alternative percussions. Not to worry, long time fans, the songs are still quietly wrought pieces of beauty and passion - the difference is in a bit of sonic experimentation that increases the overall power of Beams vocalizations.

The themes on Woman King are, as one would guess, related to the fairer sex and her influence in the songwriter's life. Portraits of woman as heroine, goddess, lover, and hated enemy are all found in these six tracks, oftentimes finding more than one role into which she fits. Each track has its own magical presence and intensely personal statement. The captivating depth of "Woman King", filled out with distorted guitars and an intensely rhythmic undercurrent, is an immediate sign of Beam's continuing growth as a maturing songwriter. Slide guitar nicely accents a deep, droning Memphis blues style on "Freedom Hangs Like Heaven", and the full band sound of "Evening On The Ground" is a testament to the careful arrangements created by Beam. Lyrically, Woman King has moments of extreme beauty to match the carefully woven guitars that continue to form the base of Iron And Wine's musical repertoire. "Mary, Carry your babe/ bound up tight like lips around a whimper/ your fingers cover my face/ blind eyed Sampson driven to the temple…" from "Freedom Hangs Like Heaven" are lyrics as pervasive and full of imagery as anything Paul Simon has ever written. "My Lady's House" pays tribute to the lover and their sometimes-tenuous relationship: "It is good in my lady's house/ every shape that her body makes/ love is a fragile word/ in the air, on the length we lay."

For those who are familiar with Iron And Wine, there will be no doubt the importance of Woman King. For those that have never been exposed to the pleasures of Samuel Beam's amazing songwriting and downbeat instrumentation, Woman King would be the perfect place to begin discovering the magic.

-David DeVoe

Track Listing:
1. Woman King
2. Jezebel
3. Gray Stables
4. Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
5. My Lady's House
6. Evening On The Ground (Lilith's Song)

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