Deeply sensual, richly pastoral, The Shepherd's Dog is a slow-burning late summer treat. Sam Beam's second album is assured and confident. Beam (his nom de disque taken from a dietary supplement named Beef Iron & Wine), a former professor of Film and Cinematography at Miami International University of Art & Design, is something of a word-of-mouth find. Some may know him from his work with Calexico; others from his cover of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" which has been used in various adverts and in the 2004 cult hit movie, Garden State.
Understatement here is the order of the day. Beam said in a recent interview that The Shepherd's Dog is 'not a political propaganda record, but it's definitely inspired by political confusion, because I was really taken aback when Bush got re-elected'. This confusion of an America adrift is addressed throughout the album, yet never at the expense of a cracking tune. Some of these songs have been around for a while: "Boy With A Coin", "House by the Sea" and "The Love Song Of The Buzzard" have been in his live set. The late night elegance of "Carousel", musically a cross between "Entangled" by Genesis and "Runaways" by XTC is eerie and affecting. The interlocking hi-life guitars of "Wolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)" and the rambunctious opener "Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car" show the breadth of Beam's musical palette.
Soothing and sinister at the same time, The Shepherd's Dog deserves to sit sweetly in the year end polls. --Daryl Easlea
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