By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated October 01, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

What’s gotten into Sam Beam? On his first two albums under the stage name Iron and Wine, the South Carolina native sang in a whisper over sleepy trad-folk arrangements that sounded like they were recorded in a 19th-century farm town. Yet The Shepherd’s Dog finds him trying all sorts of new tricks — backmasked electric licks, Afrobeat polyrhythms, even trippy dub-reggae echo effects. Once the shock of Beam’s experimental bent wears off, it becomes clear that he’s added dimension to his style without sacrificing its gorgeous tranquility. A-