Iron And Wine
The Creek Drank the Cradle
On The Creek Drank the Cradle, Sam Beam (performing under the name Iron And Wine) reminds this reviewer of the power a lone singer and an acoustic guitar can wield. Recorded to a four track, these recordings are as affecting and intimate as anything that Nick Drake, Mark Kozelek, or even Mark Eitzel might have recorded. Beam’s hushed voice that hovers barely above a whisper is captivating and draws the listener in. It is as if one is eavesdropping on the private thoughts of some southern auteur, with an ear pressed to the ceiling, as he plays alone in an attic. You can almost hear the melodies being filtered through the Spanish moss that hangs like shrouds through the cypress trees (at this point I should probably mention that Sam Beam is a teacher based out of Miami, Florida).
Cobbled together from two full-length discs that Beam provided Sub Pop, any listener must certainly wonder what those other tracks sound like. On this release, Beam’s gentle plucking on his acoustic guitar, accompanied only by the occasional banjo, and his songs of loss and desolation are riveting. Perhaps, none is more so than the album’s centerpiece, “Upward Over the Mountains.” A one-sided dialogue from a man to his mother as he sits in prison. While the premise is, perhaps, a country-western cliché, in Beam’s hands, it takes on an epic, transcendent quality. The lyrics wrestle back and forth as the narrator summons their shared memories of life together and offers heartfelt pleas for his mother, alternatively, to remember and forget him. As the song continues, the refrain throughout is sung solo at the conclusion: “Sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain.” It is rare for a song to give me shivers anymore, but this track certainly did.
Although I am not the first to write this, I daresay I most likely will not be the last: this release is clearly one of the year’s top releases. Sam Beam’s talent demonstrates just how much vitality and passion can exist solely with a performer accompanied by an acoustic guitar and an angelic voice. I find it hard not to believe that fans of artists such as Joe Pernice, Elliot Smith, and even Red House Painters will not find a kindred spirit here.
Sub Pop: http://www.subpop.com