Rock bands have gimmicks; so do solo musicians. Simon &
Garfunkel constantly played off their duo status, and Bob Dylan
sought to emulate James Dean and Woody Guthrie. Even Sufjan
Stevens, creator of some of the most honest new music, debuted with
a collection of songs about his home state of Michigan. If Iron
& Wine’s Sam Beam is working a schtick, he does it pretty
damn well — there’s no overt guile or elaborate
conceptual ideas on his latest release, Our Endless Numbered
Days.

After hearing tapes of Beam’s acoustic home recordings,
Sub Pop asked him for material to make an album. Moving from his
living room to the recording studio to make Days, Beam was able to
maintain the pure, poignant sound that brought his homemade debut
The Creek Drank the Cradle such acclaim.

With Days, Beam has lent variation to the typical acoustic
formula. He usually combines only two elements, acoustic guitar and
vocals, but occasionally doubles guitar lines and accent changes
with lithe, unimposing percussion. Tracks like “On Your
Wings” and “Cinder and Smoke” simultaneously
prickle and soothe listeners. “Naked As We Came” and
“Sunset and Soon Forgotten” move in a sweeter vein, but
Beam’s lyrics and the combination of twangy guitar and the
light rasp of his voice lend an intimate mood to the whole
album.

Lurking behind larger musical connections, Beam’s songs
accentuate highly emotional moments without sappiness or overt
manipulation. This music inspires personal growth, quickly or by
tiny increments, by finding consort with listeners’ emotions.
When music touches your soul this easily and tenderly, it
doesn’t matter whether the musician’s intentions are
pure or not — the music is convincing enough.

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

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