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CD reviews

— Iron & Wine

“The Shepherd’s Dog”

An element of peril pervaded through Sam Beam’s first two full-lengths under the name Iron & Wine.

On Beam’s latest LP, “The Shepherd’s Dog,” the Miami native mostly discards the bare bones approach of his previous offerings, but despite all the critical accolades and a legion of indie fans, Beam continues to warn that danger is around the bend.

“Love was a promise made of smoke in a frozen corpse of trees / A bone cold and older than our bodies slowly floating in the sea,” Beam opens the album with his soft-spoken falsetto – cautioning the love-struck of a future nursing a dark, wounded heart.

Although not as superior to Beam’s collaboration with Calexico, “In the Reins,” the songwriter’s expanded musical palette – with more attention to percussion work – exhibits a maturation and departure from coffeehouse folkiness.

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To be set adrift in a vast ocean of nothingness, alone without the comfort of love, there are few other artists that provide better comfort than Beam.

Rating: 3.5

– Mike McCollum, 4 Points

Josh Ritter

“The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter”

(Victory Records)

Ritter’s songs can’t help but sound like someone else’s – the music on “Mind’s Eye” is about 50 percent “London Calling” and “Rumors” starts out more than a little like “My Sharona.” But as a songwriter, Ritter is happy fitting right in with what’s been done before without actually doing it.

“Mind’s Eye” and “Rumors” – and “Real Long Distance” and most of the album’s 14 tracks – are great for their ability to take something that catches our Americana ears and straddle all the emotions involved.

Throughout “Historical Conquests,” Ritter is alternately joyful, mournful and dark. It’s the way he can have all those things happen in one track, and in different ways each time, that makes his grasp on some of the simplest songwriting a little more progressive.

Rating: 4 stars

– Margaret Hair, 4 Points