Published Feb 20, 2015In the past decade, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has expanded his sound to incorporate world influences, lush AM pop and jazzy, full-band folk rock. For fans of the hushed, home-recorded acoustic ballads of his early days, however, this archival collection of unreleased material will come as a welcome throwback.
Archive Series Volume No. 1 draws from the same well of four-track recordings that comprised his debut album, 2002's The Creek Drank the Cradle. The material here is similar in both sound and quality to Iron & Wine's other work from the era, as Beam layers his six-string with rustic banjo and slide guitar while singing in whispered harmony.
The results are cozy and comforting, especially when Beam's lyrics touch on his blissful home life in the American South as a family man. "Eden" is particularly heart-melting, as Beam lays down gentle arpeggiated triplets and coos, "I believe that was your best / Apple pie invention since we married."
With 16 tracks and a runtime of over an hour, Archive Series Volume No. 1 doesn't have quite enough stylistic or emotional variety to hold up as a proper album. As a vaults-emptying exercise, however, it's stunning to see just how much quality material Iron & Wine has had sitting around collecting dust for all these years. (Black Cricket Recording)