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It may be a punch line to more than its fair share of jokes, but Seattle’s Sub Pop has consistently released better music than most labels over the past couple of years. Oh, sure, it’s been the home for such whozats as the Blue Rags and the mischievously named Gardener. But the little indie that got real big when Nirvana did has of late also been responsible for such bands as the Shins and upstart krautpopsters Kinski. Iron and Wine is the label’s latest unlikely success story. That moniker is the nom de tune for Sam Beam, whose God-given name is so smooth it makes you wanna drink him all night long. And after listening to The Creek Drank the Cradle, you might have to reach for something: Beam’s melloncholic songs about having mountains in the palm of your hand and throwin’ it all away are some of the more beautifully devastating to be heard in a while. Poor Sam is constantly fretting about the ghosts of squandered passion. (Perhaps his sweetheart just got lost pickin’ berries in that thicket that he calls a beard.) He also has a just-add-Jesus instant Southern Gothic flavor that, when accompanied by his whispered solipsisms, makes Elliott Smith look like bleedin’ Lemmy. But all those precious idiosyncrasies are excused by the clarity of his proferred insights. Nothing checks the would-be migratory nature of our collective cock like “Now I see Love/Looking for you in this other girl’s eyes/ Time and all you took/Only my freedom to fuck the whole world.” Beam plays with Rosie Thomas, James Mercer, and Sam Jayne at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at IOTA Club and Cafe, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $10. (703) 522-8340. (David Dunlap Jr.)