Thanks to the widespread critical acclaim for Post-War, his fifth full-length album — not to mention a slate of live dates opening for Norah Jones — singer-songwriter M. Ward emerged in 2007 as a force in “indie folk” circles. While 2006’s Post-War marked a natural culmination of his early career, the truth is that the seeds of Ward’s laconic, laid-back, lo-fi sound had been sown as early as his debut, which has been reissued here with three bonus tracks. Recorded in 1998, Duet for Guitars #2 feels even more casual, spare, and low-key than its successors, which is saying something. But as longtime Ward fans know, few others do ragged simplicity and offhanded beauty with as much care. Ward’s slightly strange yet oddly soothing songs, steeped in prewar blues and folk, include dreamy reminiscences (“Beautiful Car”), sleepy philosophical rambles (“Who May Be Lazy”), and, in many cases, both (“Song from Debby’s Stairs”). Instrumentals like the title track and “The Crooked Spine” are showcases for Ward’s gentle, John Fahey-inspired fingerpicking, while “He Asked Me to be a Snake” (complete with creaking door in the background) melds a bright 1920s-style pop melody (“The Glory of Love” leaps to mind) with inscrutable lyrics about redemption and sympathy. Ward’s endearingly creaky, fragile voice helps establish a sense of intimacy and sincerity.