The Creek Drank the Cradle
Iron and Wine's debut record, The Creek Drank the Cradle, is written, produced, and performed by Sam Beam and features only Beam's voice, a gently strummed acoustic guitar, some slide guitar, and the occasional banjo. Iron and Wine creates intimate and emotional songs, recorded bedroom-style but never letting the lo-fi get in the way of the tune. The obvious comparison has to be Lou Barlow/Sebadoh/Sentridoh, as they share the same breathy voice, melancholy outlook on life, and devotion to Nick Drake. The difference is that there are no traces of punk rock or noise for the sake of noise in Iron and Wine's music. Beam isn't interested in rocking out or obscuring the beauty that bursts from within his simple songs; he embraces it and lets his sadness twist in the wind for all to see. Besides, his vocal harmonies are more soft rock than punk rock. "Lion's Mane" opens the record and immediately takes your breath away as Beam's voice is so beautiful and his hooks are razor sharp. Every song that follows is just as memorable, Beam sounding positively angelic as he harmonizes with himself. "The Rooster Moans" is a chilling side trip into Appalachian folk; "Southern Anthem" a falsetto-led indie-gospel track with an absolutely soaring chorus. The simple musical backing never gets boring either, as there are musical hooks to match the vocal hooks -- the banjo in "Lion's Mane," the double-tracked repeating slide at the end of "Faded from the Winter," the gently chugging rhythm of "Upward Over the Mountain." As soon as the almost jaunty, Neil Young-esque album closer, "Muddy Hymnal," ends, you'll want to hit repeat and start again. The Creek Drank the Cradle is a stunning debut and one of the best records of 2002.