The story goes that Samson lost his strength when Delilah cut off his hair while he slept, his black flowing mane then becoming the symbol of his strength and the defining trait of his legacy.
Songwriter Samuel Beam, aka Iron and Wine, sports a similar trademark, but his hangs off the bottom of his face as a brown nappy beard. At the time of this writing there are no known photos of Mr. Beam sans facial hair, creating the supposition that Beam would lose all of his strength, his musical powers, if a razor were taken to his mug.
Behind the beard, the power of Iron and Wine is a quiet, controlled one-the songs delicate, heartfelt and utterly beautiful. Beam's voice hugs you with a gentle, warm caress, leaving your favorite blanket sulking in the corner, jealous, passed over and rendered useless.
Beam's "tone poems" perfectly match his voice with lightly plucked acoustic guitar, an occasional banjo or slide guitar and background vocals from his sister Sarah. The songs on Iron and Wine's first album, The Creek Drank the Cradle are rite-of-passages about leaving home, sewing oats, finding love and growing older. On "Upward Over the Mountain," Beam sings "So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten/sons are like birds flying upward over the mountain" in a tone so earnest that the emotional effect it has on the listener, if they have a trace of a heart at all, can be overwhelming.
"It's fun to deal with that kind of material, the things that people can grasp on to," Beam says. "Instead of music that they want to hear loud and get fucked up to, it's a different type of music."
Growing up on a lake in North Carolina, Beam now lives in Miami, Fla., with his wife and kids. Because he's a father, he doesn't tour much, hitting the road for only a few weeks at a time, about three months out of the year. He said he'll be playing solo at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, and that he still has the beard.
"It's still there," he says. "I haven't really looked in the mirror too much lately."Iron and Wine forgets to shave, again, with Sam Jayne at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 6. $12. 858-481-8140.