Rivers of Song

History courses through the folk music of South Florida transplant Iron and Wine

Meyer says it was only a matter of time before the state was exposed for what it is: a place that doesn't get taken seriously because the rest of the country doesn't know about the vital generation of musicians coming out of it. "It's kind of like a Midwestern state transplanted to the East Coast," he adds. "Not a lot of people know what goes on in Florida."

Beam's inheritance is mostly accidental, though. Since he's from South Carolina and somewhat naive in regard to the rich Florida folk history he's become associated with, he says his music is more Southeastern than Floridian. But his current location might just make his legacy.

"I didn't start this with any ideas of what was going to come," Beam says. "I never felt like I was part of a scene. I've never felt like a representative of Florida. It's interesting that all the Florida music that I'm doing, there's no Florida music that influenced me. I just listened to the radio."

Sam Beam: No relation to Jim
Sam Beam: No relation to Jim

But when you hear a song like "Cinder and Smoke" from Our Endless Numbered Days, the banjo at the song's epilogue, the oratorical and hymn-like delivery, the tale of "praying for rain with ash in your mouth," and the song's farmhouse setting are things that make you fall in love with Florida all over again.

In his everyday life, Beam is the same person you hear in those songs: the quiet family man who sings about rivers, the devil, chapel doors, roosters, Jesus, the seaside, ghosts, and sawgrass as serenely as he talks.

"Folk music has got a bad rap since the '60s -- it was cardigans and crusty hippies," he continues. "What it is, is the people's music. Rock is folk music. Religious music is folk music. I have no problem being stuck in that category. But now, it's totally different from the past 40 years."

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