Iron and Wine
Our Endless Numbered Days
The maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” has been learned and heeded well by Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine. With Our Endless Numbered Days, Beam continues with the style that brought him such prominence on 2002’s The Creek Drank the Cradle. Singing in his intimate, hushed style, these gently picked autumnal tracks document a faded Southern legacy buried beneath acres of Kudzu and bougainvillea blooms. In fact, the only difference between this release and the first Iron and Wine release is that Beam elected to record these songs in a proper studio, instead of directly to a four track. While the sound is considerably crisper and cleaner, Beam’s hushed vocals and tender way of playing guitar make these tracks recognizable as belonging to no one else.
Our Endless Numbered Days is an elegiac record and one that could have been written only by a southern native. Between the lines (and sometimes, directly from the lines) Beam sings, one can hear echoes of that weird old South, of calico fabric and broad rimmed hats, of the elderly fanning themselves on porches, of lemonade and freshly cut grass. That Beam is capable of evoking these lost times is of no concern, that he chooses to is of interest and deserves the highest praise. The pageantry of that weird old South, the feudal aristocracy and gentry that existed in the interregnum between the end of the Civil War and the passing of the Civil Rights Act, twists and turns here, in these songs as the pages of an old hymnal blown about by the Holy Spirit on a Pentecostal breeze. Beam documents the whole history of this South through character studies and soliloquies delivered by folks about to meet their doom. From folk wisdom as delivered from the pages of Foxfire tomes (“On Your Wings”) and love songs (“Love and Some Verses,” “Each Coming Night,” “Fever Dream”) to songs about hangings (“Free Until They Cut Me Down”) and meditations on mortality (“Sodom,” “South Georgia”), Beam sketches the terrain of the old South, as if he had a map written on his heart.
Our Endless Numbered Days is far too short an album to encompass all the themes it manages to address. In fact, it is better to not think of it as an album at all. It is really another chapter in the great novel Beam is setting to song. Let us hope, he continues writing and the novel has many chapters before it concludes.