If Iron & Wine finds the acclaim it deserves, sole member Samuel Beam is bound to face skeptics who doubt the sincerity of his winsome, rustic bedroom folk. Like Will Oldham's prolific Palace project—but closer in spirit to the less-affected likes of Nick Drake, Neil Young, and Elliott Smith—Iron & Wine features an urban Southern intellectual whose music is steeped in rural Southern Americana. Based in Miami, Florida, where he teaches cinematography at a local college, Beam sings about killing snakes in creek beds ("Upward Over The Mountain") and riding the rusty train to hell ("The Rooster Moans"), accompanied only by acoustic guitar, his own overdubbed vocal harmonies, and the occasional bit of banjo or slide guitar. It would be a mistake to call the result "lo-fi": For all the songs' elemental ingredients, Beam is a gifted producer, imbuing The Creek Drank The Cradle with both breeziness and portent, subtlety and simplicity. Equally assured with sweetly lilting pop ("Bird Stealing Bread") and doomstruck ballads (the haunting "Faded From The Winter"), Beam invests these songs with hypnotic beauty and sparkling melody, making them as accessible as they are affecting. The Creek Drank The Cradle was reportedly culled from two full discs' worth of material, so a follow-up is already in the can—a good sign that Beam shares Oldham's restless prolificacy, too. Here's hoping.

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