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Thursday, August 12, 2010

British Invasion: F-Bombing Banjos

"It was not your fault, but mine

And it was your heart on the line

I really fucked it up this time,

Didn't I, my dear?"

(Mumford & Sons, "Little Lion Man")

Christian folk rockers who indiscriminately drop F-bombs are my kinda people—and their live show at Lollapalooza last Sunday was as inspired as the best of sermons.

As I learned during my sojourn in Northern Ireland, Mumford & Sons has been delighting audiences and captivating listeners worldwide, since their debut album Sigh No More (their single “Little Lion Man” was #1 on Australia's 2009 Hottest 100 List). The London-based band, however, has enjoyed merely a cult following in the States, which is why I am compelled to spread the Mumford gospel to my fellow Yanks.

Mumford & Sons is impressive for a least two reasons. The first: Sigh No More is stirring enough to restore faith in folk rock to even the most banjo-weary Nashvillians. From the cascading trumpet riffs of “Winter Winds,” the unexpectedly rousing and rollicking banjo on “Roll Away Your Stone,” to the haunting vocal harmonies on “White Blank Page,” Mumford & Sons' album deserves every bit of the pandemic praise they have received.

The second reason, though, that Mumford & Sons is remarkable, is decidedly down-played in reviews. Mumford & Sons is a Christian band, which is much-evident from their lyrics. Dear reader, I am as jaded by Christian bands are you probably are—which is why it is so refreshing to find a band whose songs are not riddled with tired cliches, simplistic music, and those churchy “hot-words,” all which have long kept non-Christians from taking Christian music seriously.

Mumford & Sons, then, does everyone a huge service by not dumbing-down their music. The happy consequence of this, is that they draw fans from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. The mere fact that I saw them play at Lollapalooza (alongside the likes of Soundgarden and MGMT), rather than (insert names of Christian music festivals in Ohio that I avoid – dare I say? – like the plague), is a testimony to the band's versatility in their appeal to the greater population of music fans.

There are several instances of the British unsuccessfully appropriating American inventions. The tasteless, plastic-wrapped flapjacks sold as “American Pancakes?” Fail. The establishment of a fast-food restaurant chain that masquerades as “KFC” but does not sell biscuits?? Blasphemy. But with Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons truly does justice to the Americana music genre. A band whose enthusiasm is contagious, they now boast a reputation of being one of the best live bands in the U.K. – it would be nothing short of sinful to miss seeing them in concert.

Listen to: "Little Lion Man" (Sigh No More)

Great Video of Mumford & Sons live at the Academy (Dublin)!: