On first consideration, Mumford & Sons seem to be an odd addition to the London music scene. With their acoustic blue grass and folk instruments, waistcoats and battered boots they would seem to be as far removed from the worlds of Dizzee Rascal and the XX as is humanly possible. Then again, diversity has always been the city’s musical strength and Mumford & Sons are not quite alone, with the likes of Noah & The Whale and Laura Marling along for the ride. Yet while those two acts have already made their mark to critical, if not commercial, acclaim.
Marcus Mumford and his cohorts have bided their time before making their (major label) debut and it’s a move that has paid dividends. Sigh No More is practically perfect, a heart rendering, emotive, inspiring, beautiful, loud, peaceful and just bloody good. Yes, you could say I like it. Where to start? Well how about the beginning, as the title track slides quietly into being before bursting into like with a glorious vocal harmony, followed by a banjo led frenzy. Yes that’s right, banjo. Mumford & Sons have been described as / accused of being a bluegrass band and in truth there are deep Americana influences to be found here, in the obvious instrumentation and gospel, but the four piece are more than a mere tribute act. Instead they take a range of influences and channel them into something quite wonderful.
Sigh No More is an album full of catchy, anthemic tracks that manages never to overdo it. The playing, arrangements and vocals are always understated, knowing the exact moment when to put the pedal to the floor – be it the brass on the two-step of ‘Winter Winds’. ‘Roll Away The Stone’ and its hoe down or the surprising noise of ‘Dust Bowl Dance’. Surprising because there are largely songs fragile of emotion, beaten and bruised by the realities of life and love. Such is the restrained nature of Marcus Mumford’s anger – and there is anger here – that when he lets fly with a recurring expletive on ‘Little Lion Man’ it’s far more shocking than the word itself suggests. But that’s Mumford & Sons all over – an iron fist inside a velvet glove. Playing a banjo.