Billboard Bits: Iron & Wine, Podcasts, Big Al Downing

News on Iron & Wine, Podcasts, Big Al Downing

SamIron & Wine's Sam Beam is planning to hit the studio in early 2006 to begin recording his third Sub Pop album. The artist tells he is hoping to release the new set later in the year.

"Honestly, there's kind of a backlog of material," Beam says. "When the first record came out, those were significantly older songs. The next record was pretty much already written by the time the first one came out. It's kind of the same way now. The songs are pretty much written, but now it's just a matter of finding time to record them."

Iron & Wine broke through with the 2004 release "Our Endless Numbered Days," which has sold more than 115,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. As previously reported, Beam has recorded a collaborate EP with fellow indie rock act Calexico, "In the Reins," which is due Sept. 13 via Overcoat Recordings. A joint North American tour will follow.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

AppleAdd Apple Computer to the rapidly growing list of media companies to embrace the podcast. As anticipated, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has added podcasting support to the latest version of iTunes.

The software will aggregate more than 3,000 podcasts, which users may subscribe to for free. New episodes will be updated automatically and made available for download to an iPod, and preference settings in iTunes will manage downloaded podcasts.

One of the podcasts available is an Apple-produced show called iTunes New Music Tuesday. Like the e-mail blast it sends to iTunes users, the new podcast will highlight new releases, featuring 30-second clips of each song.

-- Antony Bruno, L.A.

Hospitalized in Massachusetts, veteran singer Big Al Downing has postponed plans for a European tour that was due to kick off Friday (July 1) in Austria. The 65-year old artist was recently diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and will begin chemotherapy treatment immediately, according to his wife, Beverly Downing.

Downing is best known for his 1978 hit "Mr. Jones," which reached No. 20 on Billboard's country singles chart, 1979's "Touch Me, (I'll Be Your Fool Once More)" (No. 18) and 1980's "Bring It on Home" (No. 20).

His most recent studio album is 2003's "One of a Kind," released on the independent Hayden's Ferry label. The set features 14 songs written or co-written by Downing. Fans wanting to wish the artist well can send cards and notes to his attention at 65 Watson St., Leicester, MA 01524.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.