Review: Austin City Limits with Aimee Mann / Iron & Wine

Program: Austin City Limits
Date: Saturday, Nov. 15
Time: 7 p.m.
Also Airs: Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 10 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 21, at 11 p.m.
Preview the show: AustinCityLimits.org

It may not seem like it these days, but in the music business, perseverance pays off. Consider Aimee Mann. The Virginia-born, Berklee School of Music-trained musician had a hit in the 80s right out of the box with her band ‘til Tuesday’s debut single “Voices Carry,” but it’s her journey as a solo artist that’s ultimately gained the most attention. After 1993’s Whatever and 1995’s I’m With Stupid, her first two solo albums, attracted reams of critical acclaim but few sales, Mann left the major label system behind for good. Befriending film director Paul Thomas Anderson, she made significant contributions to his infamous movie Magnolia, including the Grammy- and Oscar-nominated “Save Me.” Mann then started her own label Superego Records, through which she’s released three studio albums, a Christmas record and a live CD/DVD set. She’s found more success than ever before and become a model for artists who want to do it themselves. With her colorfully-titled latest LP @#%&*! Smilers in hand, at long last Mann brings her intelligent, intricately arranged modern pop to the Austin City Limits stage.

Filtering old-fashioned, song-based folk rock through an indie rock lens, Iron & Wine (AKA songwriter Sam Beam) has in the last half decade become one of the most acclaimed and beloved outfits in contemporary music. Raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Beam earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in film. After years of making his living as a film professor in Miami, his career path changed when one of his demos found its way to Sub Pop; the label’s president personally contacted him and offered a deal. Compiled from demo tapes, Iron & Wine’s starkly arranged 2002 debut album The Creek Drank the Cradle made the critical community sit up and take notice. 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days followed, fleshing out Beam’s music with contributions from other musicians and garnering even more positive notices and a growing audience. After a couple of EPs, a contribution (“Such Great Heights”) to the popular Garden State soundtrack and a much-loved collaboration with kindred spirits Calexico, in 2007 Iron & Wine released The Sheperd’s Dog, Beam’s most lush, varied and accomplished collection yet. Having graced the ACL stage once before as a special guest of Calexico in Season 32, the now Wimberley-based Beam brings his graceful ensemble to Studio 6A for the ACL debut of Iron & Wine.

- Michael Toland

About the Reviewer: Michael Toland is manager of national productions for KLRU and contributes music reviews to several online and print publications.