Mumford and Sons (Island Records) – Sigh No More

Eleanor Careless 15 October 2009

The Shakespearean quotes that litter the rollicking title track of this album (from Much Ado About Nothing: ‘Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more…’ and ‘Man is a giddy thing’) sit oddly next to maxims such as ‘Love will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,/It will set you free’.

Perhaps The Mummers missed the irony of the comedy their album takes its name from, but it would be unreasonable to lynch them for that. Their rabble rousing chords and cockle-warming rhythms swing the album along with a surprising amount of emotional intensity, if reminiscent at times of Duke Special’s brand of Irish eyewash. Mumford’s rugged vocals carry their narrative assuredly over the rattling banjos  in the time-honoured tradition of true-believing deep-feeling folk singers, occasionally gruff (“I Gave You All”), often accompanied by keening mandolins.

Despite such folksy ingredients, Sigh No More is more indie pop (with a nod to Beirut-esque instrumentation) dressed up in a chunky knit. The piano-crashing epic of “Thistle & Weeds” stands out from more angsty numbers (“The Cave” and “Roll Away Your Stone”) and the prog-rock thumping in “Dustbowl Dance”; but it is the unslackening absolutism of Mumford and Sons (‘Now let me at the truth/Which will refresh my broken mind’) that fully initiates them as straddlers of the new indie-folk truth-telling generation. A fine example of its genre, Sigh No More does have a tendency to lay it on thick; Fleet Foxes need not be concerned.

Eleanor Careless