11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Not So Muddy Hymnals,
This review is from: The Creek Drank The Cradle (Audio CD)
Hot on the heels of Bonnie Prince Billy's "Master and Everyone" comes an album with titles like "the Rooster Moans" and "Muddy Hymnal", lovingly packaged with intimate etchings and lyrics such as "We found your name across the chapel door/carved in cursive with a table fork". Fans might be forgiven for thinking that, only seven weeks into the year, "The Creek and the Cradle" is the best Will Oldham tribute album of 2003.
Those fans would be wrong. One man band Sam Beam sings in a much more British manner and a number of the songs call to mind Belle and Sebastian rather than any of the current crop of alt country troubadours. While Beam's voice is as engaging as Stuart Murdoch's the sometimes fey delivery undermines the biblical imagery of "Just like the way that you ran to wine/when they made the new milk turn/Jesus, a friend in the better times" and makes "Southern Anthem" anything but anthemic.
However, several songs, embellished with banjo and what sounds on occasions like pedal steel guitar, are more American and, to my ears at least, all the stronger for it. Elsewhere the plucking guitar sound of "Faded from the Winter" is reminscent of "5 Leaves Left" era Nick Drake, topped off with gorgeous vocals.
While the album is much more instantaneous than the writing of Mark Linus, Will Odham, Kurt Wagner et al, the downside is that Beam has created a less individual and strong sound. That said, the overall strength of the set dispels any questions as to the viability of acoustic guitar music in 2003 and the album's immediacy might well lead Iron & Wine to greater commercial success than any of the other artists to whom they have been compared. All in all a delightful discovery.