Review: Iron & Wine's latest another step forward

Associated Press
This CD cover image released by Nonesuch shows "Ghost on Ghost," by Iron & Wine. (AP Photo/Nonesuch)
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This CD cover image released by Nonesuch shows "Ghost on Ghost," by Iron & Wine. (AP Photo/Nonesuch)

Iron & Wine, "Ghost on Ghost" (Nonesuch)

Sam Beam, the South Carolina-born musician who releases music as Iron & Wine, first made his mark with sparsely arranged, mostly acoustic tunes.

Listening to his fifth album "Ghost on Ghost," one could not be faulted for believing it to be the work of a completely different artist. The song arrangements are lush, filled with exquisite horns, crisp funky snare drums, backing vocals, a variety of natural keyboard sounds, and even pedal steel and vibraphone.

Yet Beam has managed to retain that same heartfelt, soulful feeling that brought him so much attention more than a decade ago when he started.

The album opens with "Caught in the Briars," a swinging three-minute ditty, with a charming acoustic guitar line, some lovely organ fills and a horn arrangement that would fit in the finest Van Morrison tune. It's a hell of an opener.

Ghost on Ghost is a wonderfully, produced and assembled record, propelled with joyous momentum even on tracks with darker lyrics like "Low Light Buddy of Mine."

With each successive album, Beam has been able to gradually expand and layer his sound with taste and dexterity.

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Follow James H. Collins: https://twitter.com/JimCollinsAP.

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