It’s a given that any Iron and Wine show is going to be fantastic; heart wrenching, hilarious, and heartwarming all at the same time. Ten minutes before the show started, I found out that The Secret Sisters of Muscle Shoals, AL were gearing up to open for Chapin born and bred master heartstring puller Sam Beam at Charleston Music Hall. Let the barrage of emotions ensue.
The Secret Sisters are comprised of actual siblings Laura and Lydia Rogers, two ladies with soulful, sultry voices that’ll melt you down into a puddle of shock and awe. They played four covers in their set, including “Crying Time” originally by Buck Owens and “The One I Love Is Gone” by Bill Monroe, the latter of which I’m sure brought the sting of tears to show-goers’ eyes. There are few things more tragically beautiful than two unique, gorgeous voices perfectly harmonizing one of the greatest country ballads ever written in a venue with acoustics like Charleston Music Hall. They played a few originals like “Tennessee Me” from their self-titled debut in addition to “Why Baby Why” and a song from their upcoming album full of “anger towards the opposite sex” called “Who’s Gonna Love You When I’m Gone.”
The Secret Sisters closed their too short set with “Bad Habit,” featuring the introverted Lydia Rogers on lead vocal. This song did a number on the audience with the unadulterated soul and pain of the song practically slapping everyone in the face. This song showcased Lydia’s voice as a folky reminiscence of female vocal legends like Billie Holiday; a lark’s call perfectly complementary to Laura’s stunning alto. These ladies can accomplish so much onstage with just two voices and a guitar—they proved not only their musicality but also how relatable they are by cracking jokes and picking fun at themselves in a light-hearted way. If you haven’t had the pleasure of gracing your ears with these fine ladies’ pipes, please take a minute to do so.
From the moment Sam Beam took the stage, it was obvious we were all in for a good time. He asked the audience for requests, showing us he understood that we wanted our favorites to have a chance at making the set.
He started off with “Resurrection Fern,” seamlessly transitioning from Sam to Iron & Wine as easily as he forms chords on his fret board. The standout from the first half of the set was “16, Maybe Less,” a song he recorded with Calexico for the “In the Reins” EP. Romantic, smooth, and sweet, even without the steel guitar and brush drums of the recorded version. Three audience favorites were played in a row in the latter portion of the set—“Biting Your Tail,” “Southern Anthem,” and “The Trapeze Swinger” played back to back was a moment for the South Carolina music history books.
Sam Beam was in his element on stage at the Charleston Music Hall. Since he played the set entirely acoustically, he had the freedom to take interludes, build a rapport with the audience, and create an atmosphere we all felt at home in. When he brought The Secret Sisters back to the stage to help him cover The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” I realized we had been in an Iron & Wine induced trance for almost two hours without realizing. He left the stage far too soon but came back to close out the night with “Jezebel.”
Beam has a super power that comes from his uncanny ability to write emotion into his music in a way only he is able to do. The Iron & Wine blues exist, but they aren’t so much blues as they are connections our personal and collective histories. Although no amount of Iron & Wine will ever be enough, at least I can say he called me and everyone else in that venue stupid with a smile on his face and humor in his eyes.