Iron & Wine – Archive Series Volume No. 1
“Time spent with you feels like charcoal sketches for a painting that you won’t let me see”. So we’re told on ‘Quarters In A Pocket’. It’s a neat summary of Iron & Wine’s Archive Series Volume No. 1. The songs in this set feel like charcoal sketches for paintings that for some reason were never exhibited. Like sketches by any great artist, they can be beautiful in themselves. And there are some little masterpieces here. ‘Judgement’, ‘Beyond The Fence’, ‘Minor Piano Keys’, ‘Halfway To Richmond’. They’re all worthy of proper curation. And even though they’re sketches, none is unfinished. There are no false starts. The tape never stops suddenly. There’s no premature corpsing. Understandably, there’s a lo-fi quality to the exercise. Birds can be heard in the background. But the quality is pretty even across the set, creating a coherence to the collection. While it’s not clear exactly what period it covers, we’re in The Creek Drank The Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days territory. There are gentle backing vocals and some understated musical accompaniment at times. But for the most part this is Sam Beam at his most whispery and often with just a guitar for company. And, as if there was ever any doubt, the lyrics are far from sketchy. The lovely solipsism on ‘Two Hungry Blackbirds’, “Spoke to a mother whose baby drowned, Gave me advice or a rumor she once heard, Heaven’s a distance not a place”. The casual intimacy on ‘Everyone’s Summer Of ’95’, “Hitching a ride with a crusty girl, Me and the boys stole a tie-dye shirt and a kiss or two”. Sketches they may be, but Iron & Wine’s Archive Series Volume No. 1 is worthy of its own show. Chances are that subsequent volumes will be too.