Monday, September 17, 2012

Mumford & Sons: The Cave

In nine days, “Reading between the Grooves” could be ending its run; however, a few have asked me to continue this blog. I have agreed that, on the condition that a certain number (which shall remain unidentified) of positive responses to the survey I’ve posted be met, then (and only then) will I continue this work. You can register your feelings at

Since my FM radio is on the blink (broken for non-Americans), I decided to stop by our local used record and CD store last week to get some music for my trip to Pennsylvania last week. While going through racks, I found the Mumford & Sons 2009 CD “Sigh no More.” The cover intrigued me and the name was vaguely familiar. There was an unusual banjo being held by one of the band members – so I bought the CD.

As the first track emanated from the speakers, I was not that impressed. My initial reaction was that the instrumentation was great, but the vocals seemed to be over produced with a Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” treatment. The dichotomy between sparse instrumentation and vocals akin to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was not terribly exciting to me. Marcus Mumford’s unusual voice did not bother me – it was these great swells of vocals that initially turned me off.

When the fourth cut emerged from the speakers, I readily remembered “Roll Away Your Stone” and cut number five, “White Blank Page.” I played “Roll Away Your Stone” several times on Wednesday night and when I got a chance, I checked and I had already featured this song in 2011. No wonder it sounded so familiar. Ah yes, memory is a wonderful thing - when you have it.

By Saturday, I was listening again to the CD and the second listen caught my ear and I immediately warmed up to the other tracks and now I had an admiration and understanding of the vocal swells – it finally made sense to me musically and from a production standpoint. Interestingly, I began to recognize some of the other tracks that I heard them before as well.

If I hear a song I like once, I generally recognize it later. This came in handy when I was programming radio stations. If I couldn’t hear it, I generally didn’t play it. “Sigh No More” is beginning to be one of my favorite albums and “Roll Away Your Stone” is still my favorite track on the CD. I really like this CD and I know that my wife would really hate it – but she hates most of the stuff I listen to anyway.

The CD has done very well in the US selling over two million copies and being certified as platinum. “Roll Away Your Stone” was the fourth single and was the worst performing of the four charting at 141 in Billboard. The third single, “The Cave,” did the best by charting at #27 and was the only Top 40 hit for the band.

One of the things about this band I like is Mumford’s voice – it’s odd and many people might not like it. Like Dylan, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, and others – it is not pristine – it’s unique and probably an acquired taste. I’m listening to this CD in my headphones now and it is even better without any other distraction. The other thing about this band is the lyrics are dark and realistic – just like folk music should be. Last year, I called the style “folk music with attitude.”

In addition to Mumford, who also plays guitar, the band consists of Winston Marshall on banjo, Ben Lovett on keyboards, and Ted Dwane on bass. All sing and three of the band (Mumford, Lovett, and Dwane) all play drums. If you purchase this CD, give it at least three listens to sink in and you’ll love it like I do.

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