These five songs, recorded during the same sessions that produced Iron and Wine’s 2002 full-length debut The Creek Drank the Cradle, are beautifully crafted pieces of soul. You get the sense that Sam Beam is some other-worldly apparition seeking an outlet to release a kind of perjury. Iron and Wine (read: Sam Beam) is a fever of clashing sound and emotion. He gets into it, it gets into him and it spreads like love at a folk-fest. Remind yourself when listening to "Jesus the Mexican Boy" that work this profoundly curious is equally rare: "Jesus the Mexican boy / Wearing a long desert trip on his tie / low and behold, he was standing under the welcome sign / Naked the Judas in me / fell by the tracks but he lifted me high / kissing my head like a brother and never asking why."
There is a mystic quality in The Sea and Rhythm, layered with ethereal vocals, clattering planes of guitar, and lyrics, as in "Beneath the Balcony," so striking they read like poetry: "And how he prays to find a man to blame / for every sleepless night he spends / and for every well that he warned me of / but wound up falling in." He is a man who has felt much, and has felt deeply. So much, in fact, that he wielded artistic control over the whole process; the record was entirely written, recorded and produced by Beam at his house in Miami.
But will everyone like The Sea and Rhythm, Iron and Wine’s follow up EP to The Creek Drank the Cradle? If you didn’t like Creek, I’m going to wager a big fat no. The new champ of southern folk, Beam’s aesthetic is fleshed further here with decidedly local and deliberately twangy rhythms, layered and lingering vocal effects, and a similar range of content — from foreboding political diatribes (the down-home "The Night Descending") to revealing and intimate portraits of love ("The Sea and Rhythm" and "Someday the Waves").
Mr. Beam isn’t a kissing cousin to the Kings of Leon; he’s a one-man band with vision enough for a five-piece. You’ll get The Sea and the Rhythm because you want a little more than just sugar in your bowl; most likely, you’ll find it, too.