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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 9/10. Follow the herd.
Shepherd's Dog is a significant departure for Sam Beam and judging from the other customer reviews it is not going to be an easy transition for a large bulk of his fans. However, if like me you were not particularly enamoured to his old style - stripped down folk in the mold of Bonnie Prince Billy - you might (and should) love this dizzying, vivid album. After listening...
Published on 1 Oct 2007 by Demob Happy

versus
7 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stop being happy, Sam
Iron and Wine's third album may well be a fairly good one compared to the rest of this week's, or this month's crop. But compared to former releases by Sam Beam and his guitar, it is almost pathetic. The cheap (although perhaps innovative) pop-rock tricks peddled on this album, that seemed so far away from his music before, are painful to any people who have felt the...
Published on 25 Sep 2007 by Bill Hartram


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 9/10. Follow the herd., 1 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
Shepherd's Dog is a significant departure for Sam Beam and judging from the other customer reviews it is not going to be an easy transition for a large bulk of his fans. However, if like me you were not particularly enamoured to his old style - stripped down folk in the mold of Bonnie Prince Billy - you might (and should) love this dizzying, vivid album. After listening to this towering achievement a couple of times one suspects that the detractors of Beam's reinvention are the same puritanical types who complained when Bob Dylan went electric. He has made an album that bucks all expectations while sacrificing none of his singularity of vision; both organic and layered with the precision of a studio perfectionist. Don't listen to the luddites, this is unmissable.

The opener 'Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car', swells from a looped alt-country twang into swinging kaliedoscopic pop replete with vocal harmonies, piano, strings and little backwards psychedelic effects. As with his acoustic work, Beam relies less on traditional verse-chorus-verse structures than on cyclical lyrics, both poetic and anecdotal. The genious of this album is the way his unusual lyrical style is echoed in the experimental energies of the music, looping and slightly trance-like but not without a pop sensibility. Although Beam has a voice so soft and whispery it makes Belle & Sebastien sound like ruffians, he overcomes the limits of his vocal range by using his voice as an instrument (albeit one that carries obscure narratives). His voice plays off the musicianship in a call-and-response that's by turns cheerful and scarily intense, sometimes thickening it with double-track or assistance from backing vocalists.

'White Tooth Man' is darker; Beam's cryptic words spiralling out from speaker and then the next, with a variety of stringed instruments playing off one another until the tension builds to a cacophanous climax. Has a sitar ever been used so ominously since the Stones? Kular Shaker this isn't. 'Lovesong of the Buzard' is gentler, humming with warmth and awakening like a sunrise. A lovely acoustic slide guitar forms a chorus melody of sorts, a gorgeous compliment to the shimmering organs.

On 'Carousel' Beam's vocal is rendered acquatic through some filtered manipulation over some lovely plucked guitar work, retaining the intimacy of his older recordings but less of its starkness. 'House By The Sea' is a kind of sea shanty that builds over a bass saxophone refrain so squelchy it could be a didgeridoo; a bizarre mix of folk whimsy and Dionysian revelry. 'Innocent Bones' shuffles along on a tropicalia rythmn with sweetly sung vocals, harmonisations and little cascades of plucked banjo.

'Wolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)' sounds like Crowded House remixed by King Tubby - in a good way! - with its breezy dub unravelling into an extended downtempo jam. For all its sonic playfulness, it is calculated bliss - nothing is wasted. Some of Calexico's multi-instrumental colour and fusion must have rubbed off on Beam since their fine collaborative EP 'He Lays in the Reins', which should be your next purchase. 'Resurrection Fern' and closer 'Flightless Bird American Mouth' are shiver-inducing ballads that retain the intimacy of his earlier recordings, albeit embellished with widescreen production touches. In contrast, the single 'Boy With A Coin', skips along on a handclapped rhythm in a trippy time signature and features some inspired slide guitar. While 'Devil Never Sleeps' is just a two-minute diversion, 'Peace Beneath The City' is more expansive in its ominous nocturnal atmosphere. All in all, it's a triumph, and surely one of the year's best.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can I be the first to say this is the dog's b******s, 3 Sep 2007
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Sam Beam's introspective and minamalist songs of the first two albums are still hidden away here, but his collaboration with Calexico seems to have given him a kick up the backside. From somewhere he's found his groove, and it's one hell of a gettin'-it-on kinda groove. At one point he even manages a smattering of dub. The album is littered with Premier League class tracks, my own favourites being "House By The Sea", "Wolves (Song of the Shepherds Dog)", "Boy With A Coin", "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" and the absolutely gorgeous "Resurrection Fern".

This has GOT to be the breakthrough album, or I'm a monkey's uncle. It will sell like the proverbial hot-cakes so get your copy while it's on the shelves. It's not album of the year (For my money that's still Panda Bear's "Person Pitch") but its cast iron top five.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One great step for Beam, 3 Oct 2007
This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
Hearing the Shepherd's Dog, and comparing it to previous releases (especially debut album And the Creek Drank the Cradle) brought to mind my reaction on listening both to the Tindersticks' second album a decade ago or Joanna Newson's Ys last year. In each case a bigger-sounding album made me revise my view of the simpler-sounding predecessor. No matter how good the first album was, the new release sounds much better and reveals the limitations of the predecessor. While the reviews thus far have shown a divide between the Judas crowd and those amenable to musical progress I am firmly in the latter camp.

That is not to say that The Shepherd's Dog is a masterpiece. It isn't and, in the blues interlude Devil Never Sleeps, contains at least one song which would be better left off. However it is a much richer and rewarding album while still unmistakably an Iron and Wine release. Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car begins proceedings brilliantly and sets the scene. Throughout, the album has an Indian feel at times reminding me of the Byrds and, on occasions the Blue Aeroplanes in some of their folkier moments and, in the penultimate Peace Beneath the City, like New Adventures In Hi Fi-era REM.

Sam Beam's voice is immediately recognisable but while on, especially, And the Creek Drank the Cradle it stood out against a stately, quiet backing, here it is intertwined with an array of musical effects and textures against which it fares favourably.

At first I thought Boy With A Coin was an odd choice for a single but it has grown on me, based on short vocal lines, hypnotic clapping, haunting pedal steel and nimble percussion.

The album ends beautifully with the intriguingly-titled Flightless Bird. American Mouth. In waltz time it features Beam's most beautiful vocal and reminds me of a less fragile Raining in Darling which concludes Bonny Prince Billy's I See a Darkness. The Shepherd's Dog isn't as good as I See a Darkness but it is not far off and that's one of the highest compliments I know. Highly recommended to old fans and new and destined to shine at the End of Year Polls.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 9/10. Follow the herd, 1 Oct 2007
Shepherd's Dog is a significant departure for Sam Beam and judging from the other customer reviews it is not going to be an easy transition for a large bulk of his fans. However, if like me you were not particularly enamoured to his old style - stripped down folk in the mold of Bonnie Prince Billy - you might (and should) love this dizzying, vivid album. After listening to this towering achievement a couple of times one suspects that the detractors of Beam's reinvention are the same puritanical types who complained when Bob Dylan went electric. He has made an album that bucks all expectations while sacrificing none of his singularity of vision; both organic and layered with the precision of a studio perfectionist. Don't listen to the luddites, this is unmissable.

The opener 'Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car', swells from a looped alt-country twang into swinging kaliedoscopic pop replete with vocal harmonies, piano, strings and little backwards psychedelic effects. As with his acoustic work, Beam relies less on traditional verse-chorus-verse structures than on cyclical lyrics, both poetic and anecdotal. The genious of this album is the way his unusual lyrical style is echoed in the experimental energies of the music, looping and slightly trance-like but not without a pop sensibility. Although Beam has a voice so soft and whispery it makes Belle & Sebastien sound like ruffians, he overcomes the limits of his vocal range by using his voice as an instrument (albeit one that carries obscure narratives). His voice plays off the musicianship in a call-and-response that's by turns cheerful and scarily intense, sometimes thickening it with double-track or assistance from backing vocalists.

'White Tooth Man' is darker; Beam's cryptic words spiralling out from speaker and then the next, with a variety of stringed instruments playing off one another until the tension builds to a cacophanous climax. Has a sitar ever been used so ominously since the Stones? Kular Shaker this isn't. 'Lovesong of the Buzard' is gentler, humming with warmth and awakening like a sunrise. A lovely acoustic slide guitar forms a chorus melody of sorts, a gorgeous compliment to the shimmering organs.

On 'Carousel' Beam's vocal is rendered acquatic through some filtered manipulation over some lovely plucked guitar work, retaining the intimacy of his older recordings but less of its starkness. 'House By The Sea' is a kind of sea shanty that builds over a bass saxophone refrain so squelchy it could be a didgeridoo; a bizarre mix of folk whimsy and Dionysian revelry. 'Innocent Bones' shuffles along on a tropicalia rythmn with sweetly sung vocals, harmonisations and little cascades of plucked banjo.

'Wolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)' sounds like Crowded House remixed by King Tubby - in a good way! - with its breezy dub unravelling into an extended downtempo jam. For all its sonic playfulness, it is calculated bliss - nothing is wasted. Some of Calexico's multi-instrumental colour and fusion must have rubbed off on Beam since their fine collaborative EP 'He Lays in the Reins', which should be your next purchase. 'Resurrection Fern' and closer 'Flightless Bird American Mouth' are shiver-inducing ballads that retain the intimacy of his earlier recordings, albeit embellished with widescreen production touches. In contrast, the single 'Boy With A Coin', skips along on a handclapped rhythm in a trippy time signature and features some inspired slide guitar. While 'Devil Never Sleeps' is just a two-minute diversion, 'Peace Beneath The City' is more expansive in its ominous nocturnal atmosphere. All in all, it's a triumph, and surely one of the year's best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Iron and Wine is a winner!, 20 Jun 2009
By 
S. Coad - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
There's not a weak track on this album. A real find. Thoroughly recommended if you go for a beaty, tough-edged folky feel with great lyrics. Varied and interesting stuff - I want more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iron And Very Fine, 17 Feb 2008
By 
A. Sweeney "I don't care what you call me" (Brighton, East Sussex) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
South Carolina-born, Texas-based Sam Beam's third studio album as Iron And Wine is one which has split his fanbase right through the middle. Described by some fans as comperable to 'when Dylan went electric', The Shepherd's Dog is the sound of an artist evolving, expanding, creating and refusing to be defined by his previous work - and it's wonderful. Always interesting, this piece of work gathers folk influences ranging from the late 60s/early 70s (Simon & Garfunkel, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake) to the contemporary (Elliott Smith) and combines them with a vision of the unlimited and unconstrained, both in terms of structure and instrumentation, resulting in a dizzying dozen tracks of intriguing artistry inspired by, according to Sam Beam, "political confusion".

Highlights of the album include the stomping opener, 'Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car', the folk/country, acoustic guitar-driven simple beauty of 'Resurrection Fern' and the spiraling, almost tribal-chant-like 'Boy With A Coin', but it would be difficult task selecting the weakest track on this album, being a work of consistency. In fact, where individual songs don't perhaps work for you, they are never short of interesting and always capture your attention, sometimes even drawing you into a trance-like state as you're captivated by the rhythms, the looping music and the fact that you're having your soul massaged by the soft, often self-harmonising vocals. Even if this album's lyrics are a tad opaque, ambiguous and confusing, to me that's part of Sam Beam's appeal. Sometimes the very best puzzles are the ones you just can't solve.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More is less, 10 Jan 2008
By 
This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
(UPDATING MY INITIAL REVIEW) This was the first Iron & Wine offering I heard, so I came to it without any baggage about the purity of the earlier work. I was initially very taken with it, but must admit the extraneous material and production tricks wear a little thin eventually. The sparseness of his earlier stuff (which I subsequently heard and was rather dismissive of) has since grown on me, and I prefer it - especially the In The Reins EP with Calexico.

Interestingly, the best song on the album `Resurrection Fern' is given the most straight-forward treatment - more typical of his earlier work - and this now just seems to make it stand out from the rest even more. The arrangements tend to drag down the other good songs a bit after a while

Still a good album mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good CD, 14 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (MP3 Download)
I love Iron and Wine and they play some great music. This CD may not be their best but certainly a must have for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars cd, 16 Dec 2012
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rated 5 star because I love this cd would recomend it to someone easy on the ear thanks so much
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 21 Dec 2009
This review is from: The Shepherd's Dog (Audio CD)
Beautiful lyrics, beautiful composition. best folk band ever. Just gets better and better haven' stopped listening to this since I bought it a month ago..
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