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coverpic flag US - Florida - Full Moon 155 - 05/09/09

Iron and Wine
Around the Well
Sub Pop / Tuba!

While we're waiting for the follow-up of the eminent 2007 release The Shepherd's Dog, Iron & Wine (currently Texas located singer-songwriter Sam Beam's stage and recording name) gives us Around the Well; a collection of rarities, ranging from out-of-print to never-before-released work.

Around the Well, btw named after a line in the song "The Trapeze Swinger", is divided into two sections. The first half of the album is unedited home recordings, while the second is recorded in proper studios with the participation of other musicians, friends and engineers. This could also be said to be a side-tracked chronological journey through Iron & Wines career so far, as the first album The Creek Drank the Cradle were "home made" while Iron & Wine's later work has been more and more supplemented by both other musicians and electronic aid.

In a way it feels like Iron & Wine overdoses with 22 tracks here. Especially on the album's first half. Yes, Sam Beam has an intriguing, tender vocal, that suits the raw and unpolished material well. And there isn't one song here that cannot be said to be anything but good. But that's just it. Most of them are just that - good. Like promises already fulfilled in better ways.

Yet there also are outstanding tracks on this collection, like the mesmerising "Load as Hope", the almost joyful Americana on "Serpent Charmer", or the beautifully stripped down cover of Flaming Lips' "Waitin' for a Superman". Actually, it is the cover songs that are the pearls of this album. For also included here is maybe Iron & Wines best known song (used in the soundtrack for Garden State); the lovely cover of The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" that low-voiced reveals the song's romantic potential. And there is the heartbreaking, perfectly sorrowful cover of New Orders "Love Vigilante", that almost alone justifies the whole album.

So summarised, Around the Well is a very nice treat and a so-called must-have for collective natured fans. And just a good teaser for those of us that anticipates the album to come.

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