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Iron and Wine: Simply Sam Beam

Early in a solo performance by Iron and Wine frontman Sam Beam, the singer played a soft and gentle rendition of "Sodom, South Georgia," a tender piece from Our Endless Numbered Days. I had never seen it performed live, and it was such a treat — it's just too bad he couldn't remember what he was thinking when he wrote it. Host Jay Trachtenberg asked him what (if anything) the song was about, and Beam sort of laughed, intimating that he hopes people listen to his songs and apply them to their lives, whether or not what he wrote has anything to do with his own.

Beam's unassuming, almost shy presence in Studio 1A stood out, in light of the attention he's received, locally and nationally, since the release of last year's The Shepherd's Dog. He makes it clear that he didn't move to the Austin area from Miami to cozy up to the music scene here: He lives outside of town with his wife, near their family, and he prefers to write music and play at home rather than working the downtown scene.

The added space and lower cost of living in Austin allows Beam to maintain a studio on his property, so his most recent songs were all recorded at home. After listening to the record several times, it was startling to hear the drastic difference between the album's complex arrangements and the bare-bones versions before me.

Beam is known for drawing inspiration from stories people tell him, books he reads, and little bits of lives with which he's acquainted himself over the years. Each song he performed felt like a private story reading — particularly the ominous "Peace Beneath the City." We were happy to have him here, and look forward to those rare instances when he decides to play locally. They're certainly worth the wait.

Copyright 2008 KUT 90.5

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Paige Maguire