CD review: Mumford and Sons
By Katie Scarvey
One of the highlights of the Grammys this year was getting to see the live Avett Brothers performance — which helped make the Concord-based band one of the top searches on Google the next day.
And just as good was seeing Mumford and Sons who, like The Avett Brothers, are in the vanguard of a burgeoning folk revival.
I first became aware of these London-based lads when I heard that they were touring last year with Cadillac Sky, a wonderful band I was introduced to at Merlefest (which has since, sadly, disbanded).
Through the magic of Spinner.com, I stumbled upon the music of Mumford and Son in December. The website allowed visitors to listen to some of the year’s best albums, for free. I sampled a lot of them one lazy Saturday afternoon but there was only one that kept me coming back: “Sigh No More,” Mumford and Sons’ debut folk rock album, which was released in the US about a year ago.
Mumford and Sons is composed of Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane, who aren’t actually family but a group of friends who got together in 2007.
At the heart of their music is bluegrass, but there’s a rock energy there as well, frenetic but well-controlled, jubilant, exuberant, infectious. The sound is rich and the harmonies excellent.
Many of the songs start somewhat reflectively and then push headlong into driving crescendos that will have you fist-pumping or beating on your steering wheel.
One of the hottest songs on the album, “Little Lion Man,” is a wild, passionate anthem of regret, fueled with a heartbreak that propels it like a runaway train. It received a Grammy nomination for best rock song of the year, kind of amazing for a banjo-driven song. Although I love Neil Young, I think “Little Lion Man” makes Young’s winning “Angry World” look pretty pale by comparison.
There’s a sturdy Anglo-Saxon heft to the band’s lyrics, which at their best resonate like the King James version of the Bible or a Steinbeck novel.
The album’s lyrics cut close to the bone when it comes to emotions: “Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you/ It will set you free/ Be more like the man you were made to be.”
Particularly literate fans will note that “Sigh No More” includes lines from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” including “Serve God, love me and mend” and “Man is a giddy thing.”
The band has its detractors, who like to accuse it of such egregious sins as “exaggerated earnestness” (a charge sometimes leveled against The Avett Brothers as well).
Fortunately, no one listens to critics all that much, especially ones who like to heap scorn on bands who have the effrontery to find their way to the masses.
“Sigh No More” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and iTunes.