Sam Beam looks like a Civil War re-creationist and this is the most modern thing about him. Recording under the pseudonym Iron & Wine, Beam has built up a small but loyal following with ethereal acoustic folksongs sung in a voice so soft and vaporous it could easily be mistaken for a ghost's. On his third full-length album, The Shepherd's Dog, out Sept. 25, Beam keeps the hypnotizing whisper but makes some modifications that could broaden his appeal. There's rhythm for starters, which creates tension and keeps the songs from drifting away. Then there are the carefully chosen effects applied to songs like Boy with a Coin, which don't warp the sound so much as cover it in a mysterious layer of kudzu. The result is a frequently beautiful record that sounds a little like early R.E.M., which for a guy like Beam is positively up to date.
Next Young Frankenstein