IRON & WINE The Creek Drank The Cradle (Sub Pop)

Iron & Wine is the nom de tune of Florida resident Samuel Beam, and “The Creek Drank The Cradle” his 2002 debut. Think “Pink Moon” remade as sepia-washed Appalachian mountain music; parts of this album sound scared of their own echo. Beam plays banjo, slide and acoustic guitar amidst the opaque hiss, hum and buzz of a lo-fi home studio fog. Most artists would treat such recordings as demos, yet the feeling here is that Beam’s already made everything he wants to of these songs, and that, as with Bruce Springsteen’s bedroom-taped “Nebraska”, further embellishments would only detract.

It’s all lovely, but highlights are the propulsive tumble of “Faded From The Winter”, “Promising Light”, three minutes of sad-eyed self-analysis and retrospective realisation, and the marriage-gone-bad storyline that seeps into “Weary Memory”. “Promise What You Will” flies closest to conventional – which is to say, not very – but it’s less of a stretch to imagine it wearing a backbeat. “The Creek Drank The Cradle” invites you into its own peculiar sonic cocoon, and for 40 minutes its spell doesn’t break.