Sam Beam, the guiding creative force behind lo-fi indie folk project Iron & Wine, has been remarkably consistent for more than a decade. Iron & Wine have released six studio albums and a handful of EPs and compilations since 2002 and have yet to deliver a clunker.
Beam’s 2002 Iron & Wine debut “The Creek Drank the Cradle” was a revelation, and he was every bit as good on 2004’s “Our Endless Numbered Days,” 2007’s “The Shepherd’s Dog” and 2013’s “Ghost on Ghost.” For his latest offering, Beam has gone back to his pre-Iron & Wine days at the turn of the millennium. The 16-track “Archive Series Volume No. 1,” despite its decidedly blah title, is a must for Iron & Wine fans.
These songs were written and recorded around the same time that Beam was making “The Creek Drank the Cradle” and serve as a companion piece to that magnificent platter. These home recordings are very lo-fi but it’s clear that Beam — and soon Iron & Wine — was on the verge of something special.
You won’t go wrong anywhere on the 61-minute slab, but pay close attention to standouts “Slow Black River,” “The Wind Is Low,” “Two Hungry Blackbirds,” personal favorite “Judgement,” “Quarters in a Pocket,” “Loretta,” “Your Sly Smile” and “Postcard.” Highly recommended. (Jeffrey Sisk)