(Photo Credit - Lorraine Portman)
Album Review - Iron & Wine: Archive Series No.5: Tallahassee Recordings (May 7, 2021)
Iron and Wine is releasing a new installment of their Archive Series, a distinctly different catalogue in their discography, as all these tracks are previously unreleased. Tallahassee Recordings comes to listeners as the first one since 2017’s No. 4, known to many as “The Shepherd's Dog Acoustic”. Tallahassee is a collection of songs recorded by Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam between the years ‘98-’99 while attending Florida State. The album was written in duo with Ej Holowicki, a brief member of Iron and Wine and credited as the bassist, engineer, and now archivist on Tallahassee Holowicki brought these tracks back to the attention of Beam who had mostly forgotten about them.
While Tallahassee Recordings has that distinct early sound of Iron and Wine, liken to their official debut The Creek Drank the Cradle, it has a wondrous innocence to it. Not only because it comes from a slightly predisposed Sam Beam as a noncommittal young man, but also because these tracks seem a little less sure of themselves and the confidence exuded in later works. This unwillingness to commit is apparent from the beginning with the first track “Why Hate Winter”. This track is very cheeky about the warmness of companionship but leaves us on a bit of a somber note as he sings-
“So come to my side and snuggle with me in a blanket
Don’t offer your love, cause I’m not a man that can take it”
From Lucy, to Martha, back to Lucy, and then eventually Elizabeth, there are several women doted on throughout the lyrics of these tracks but Lucy seems to have made a lasting impression, especially in “Ex-Lover Lucy Jones”; she’s not just Lucy, But Lucy Jones. Something about a full name gives more realness to a figure, especially as the listener only has words to paint a picture. What is unique about this track is the use of harmonica, which only appears one other time on this album, in “Solemn Days”. This scarce use of the harmonica creates a very vivid sense of the melancholy associated with looking back with regret or missing something one once had and no longer can hold close. In everyone, there’s a harmonica playing deep in our memories.
A tell-tale track that alludes to Iron and Wine’s influence on the folk scene at the turn of the century is “Loaning Me Some Secrets”. The words are sparse and the lyrics consist of short phrased sentences but are a masterclass in poetry and imagery.
“One drop of poison
Spilled on your gown
One drop of danger
Set your legs running”
Personally, when I listen to this song I see Pierre- Auguste Cot’s painting, The Storm.
Tallahassee Recordings leaves me with only one question. How different would my life have been had I heard these songs 2 decades ago?
Rating - 4.5/5