M: Let me start out by saying two things: first, that this will not be a technical “review”, analyzing the music or trying to come up with a witty phrase like “I’ve seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen”, and second, that I completely understand that no one reads out music posts. To all you folks who pop in here to read E‘s reviews of The Good Wife, I know this isn’t what you come here for, and to our closest friends and family who will read this out of a sense of obligation, bear with me as I share with you about the first band that has REALLY piqued my interest in a long, long time.
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of bands that I like. There are plenty that I really like. There are even plenty that I love. There are few, however, that I devour. I’m willing to bet most, if not all, of you know the feeling. Ok, since there will only be about five of you reading this, and one will be my wife, I’ll go out on a limb and say all of you. It’s when you find a band that you like so much, that’s such a revelation, that you just listen to anything you can get your hands on (literally or digitally). For me, the most recent entrant into that select category is Mumford and Sons.
Over the winter I heard Little Liar Man on the radio a handful of times. It stuck out for two reasons, because it had a really neat folk-rock-with-an-edge sound to it, and because one part of the chorus has to be bleeped out on the radio. It’s rare that songs that have to be bleeped even once make it to the radio, let along a song with a bleep-worthy word in the chorus, so it caught my attention. I liked it, figured it was a new Irish band (which it is not, by the way, they’re from London), but didn’t think too much of it. See, I have a “one song’s not enough” rule when it comes to bands that I have only violated twice (purchasing Tubthumper by Chumbawumba and Oyster by Heather Nova, neither of which I would consider to be highlights of my music collection). However, driving home one morning a couple months ago I heard The Cave, and that had me standing up at attention immediately. I loved it, even more than Little Liar Man, actually, and knew immediately that I needed to check them out some more.
As soon as I started to, I went into devour mode. First I found that the name and title track of their album, Sigh No More, comes from the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing, which as you may or may not know, is a Family Favorite. So I listened to it… and it’s spectacular. Like The Cave, it builds in its pace and intensity, gets you moving, and just captures you by the end of it. Obviously, Much Ado being a family favorite, I had to email E and C about it. E, surprisingly, already had the album (hello? thanks for sharing sis!), while C was as of yet unaware of the band. While sending them that PSA, I started listening to more on YouTube and fell in love with song after song. Great lyrics, great singing and a great and unique sound. I kept searching and searching, and to my surprise, I found more connections to family favorites. They did a spectacular cover of Not In Nottingham from Disney’s animated Robin Hood, which E and I grew up memorizing (the whole movie, not just the song). There are live versions of them singing Amazing Grace (it’s poor quality, but still, it’s Amazing Grace!) and one of my favorite “updated” hymns, Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing.
The more I found and the more I listened to, the more I wanted to hear. Every song I heard I loved, from the upbeat and rocking Roll Away Your Stone to the tender Timshel, from the brass-infused, fun-with-depressing-lyrics Winter Winds to the touching and moving Awake My Soul (which my eight year old son has taken to singing with me, fully melting my heart). Every song I hear goes into my iTunes rotation, none of them are songs that I am willing to skip when they come on. I can’t, and don’t want to, get these songs out of my head.
Then both The Cave and the band started getting some traction. They played at the Grammy’s, getting to open a segment, lead into the Avett Brothers, and then both bands got to play with Bob Dylan. All I could think was that getting to perform on stage at the Grammys with Bob Dylan has to be something akin to winning the SuperBowl, especially for a folk-rock band. Their reaction to their newfound success, from what I’ve been able to see, has only endeared them to me more. I saw an interview where the host mentions to them that she had recently interviewed Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant, who listed them and one other band when asked who he was listening to now. The shock and joy in their response was endearing and humorous.
But it’s the music that I keep coming back to. It’s folk, but it’s not. It’s rock, but it’s not. It’s contemporary and yet timeless. It’s at times catchy and peppy, and yet at times touching or crushingly sad. It’s a singer, guitar, base and drums. However it’s also banjo, and accordion, a washboard, a trumpet and more. The lyrics are beautiful and haunting, well written and from the heart. They’re drawn from Shakespeare and other great literature, and yet it’s all their own. It’s what’s best about music, it’s a new thing that’s a bit of things that have come before, but is unique in itself. I’m happier for having found it.