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Mumford and Sons - a hearty serving of euphoric folk rock, bluegrass and country
on 9 December 2009
A friend burned me an alternative Christmas album (thankfully no Slade!) and on it was the track "Winter Winds" by the Mumfords. It is a roaring joy of a track, a brassy, processional pop song full of banjos and horns. It's wintry in a "Fairytale of New York" way and lead singer Marcus Mumford delivers better than Parcel force. The rave reviews on Amazon were checked out and the album purchased. It comes with a health warning, "Sigh no More" is so addictive that you become a bore amongst your friends because of frequent rants about its wonders. You will find it to be the easiest piece of musical missionary work since the response back is universally positive.
Who are the Mumfords? The NME tells us with pinpoint accuracy that the band was "Formed in late 2007 through a shared love of country, bluegrass and folk, the Mumford's belong to a clique that's already scaled grand artistic peaks; performers such as Laura Marling and Noah And The Whale taking the shambling, confessional style of the New York anti-folk scene and fleshing it out for broader commercial appeal". Check out the many clips on you tube and you will see a band of fresh faced folkies, decked out in waistcoats and beards having the time of their life. To the acts above you could also add a Pogues influence, a bit of the Macabees and in Marcus's voice is the passion heard in Sam Duckworths "Get Cape Wear Cape Fly" debut album "Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager" (which we hope he recaptures) or even sometimes a young Peter Gabriel.
The songs are all strong but to single out a few for your attention the lovely ballad "After the storm" is achingly beautiful and what a mature work for such a young band. Similarly the single "Little Lion Man" is a banjo driven foot tapper but with superb lyrics and story. Other standouts include the initially soothing "I gave you all" which is a slow burner that builds to an excellent and powerful crescendo. Mention in dispatches should also go to Waterboys "Fisherman blues" era stomp "Roll away your stone" and the excellent high tempo folk of "Thistle and Weeds" and the sheer passion of "White Blank Page". I have in candour not yet found a real duffer on this album which is hugely impressive and with the "The Cave" they have recorded one of the songs of 2009. For the curious there are a number of Mumfords songs circulating not on this album. These include "Sister" available free from their website, the lovely "Liar" and covers of Calvin Harris's "Im not alone" and the Beatles "Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight". There is clearly strength in depth with this band and talent to spare.
It's great to see that Jo Whiley, Zane Lowe and Greg James from Radio 1 have enthused and championed this album all year. There are some reviews of "Sigh no More" suggesting that it is too angst ridden or alternatively (and in contradiction) it's a bunch of posh kids discovering that folk can be fun. It is not perfect by any means but for a debut oozes huge potential and places a hefty weight of lofty expectation on a precociously talented new band. Let us hope they can sustain it.