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They call them­selves gen­tlemen of the road. Marcus Mumford and his band of multi-instru­mental “sons” –– Ben Lovett, Winston Mar­shall, and Ted Dwane –– only record albums part time. Their primary business is touring and per­forming live.

It’s been three years since the English folk-rock quartet Mumford & Sons released their debut album “Sigh No More.” The pla­tonic “Cave” and punchy banjo rock anthem “Little Lion Man” soon crossed the pond and invaded American air­waves.

Mumford & Sons wrote much of their sophomore album, “Babel,” on the road –– a sab­batical in Nashville, Tenn., pro­duced “Lover’s Eyes” and “Hopeless Wan­derer”.

America seems to have been more than just a tour location –– it has influ­enced the band’s style. The sweet blue­grass banjo and acoustic guitar licks over alter­native rock struc­turing is very Amer­icana. The band admits that the sound­track to the Coen Brother film “Oh Brother, Where art Thou?” was the original inspi­ration for the band and its sonic tone. Mumford & Sons has taken classic Amer­icana and made it their own.

They are not, however, simply a bunch of British musi­cians with a fancy for American blue­grass. The band goes beyond the ordinary American band and infuses a level of lit­erary allusion: Every­thing from Shake­speare to Steinbeck to Homer has pep­pered the poetry of the band’s lyrics.

This cul­tural blend pro­duces a ready medium for the painting of pas­sions in song. Both the lyrics and pre­sen­tation of the songs exhibit a raw energy and rich feeling that seem con­trary to British reserve and makes Mumford & Sons instantly relatable as they grapple with uni­versal sub­jects.

Love and loss, melan­choly and ecstasy, self-dis­covery and exposure: these, and other familiar themes of “Sigh No More,” are revisited in “Babel.” The passion and poetry that made the first Mumford & Sons album such a triumph remain in their sophomore success.

“Babel” show­cases the energy and raw power of a live per­for­mance. Songs like “Holland Road” and “Hopeless Wan­derer” ini­tially echo much of the “Sigh No More” album’s restrained lamen­tation but quickly progress to unin­hibited forceful anthems. Songs like “Lover of the Light,” “Babel,” and “Below My Feet” –– songs that seem made for live revelry and per­for­mance –– set “Babel” apart from “Sigh No More.” It is a tri­umphant and beau­tiful return for Mumford and his “Sons.”

 

mmeadowcroft@hillsdale.edu

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From Portland, Oregon. He serves as the paper’s Associate Editor. Meadowcroft is majoring in history and participates in theatre and is on the editorial board of the Tower Light literary publication. Meadowcroft has also worked for the American Spectator. He hopes to write after college on arts and culture, international affairs, travel, theology, and politics. email: mmeadowcroft@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @micahmuses