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Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenberg – Johannesburg

I snagged this 5-song EP because it was cheap, because I like the first two Mumford records, and because I love Baaba Maal’s work. I was intrigued by the promise of this release!

All deference to Beatenberg and The Very Best, but they were new to me with this release.

For the purposes of avoiding typing names over and over again in certain spots, I’ll use this key for the artists involved in each track:

1 Baaba Maal
2 Beatenberg
3 The Very Best

There Will Be Time (1) starts off with Maal and Mumford trading verses, then the song achieves lift-off. It’s an amazing hybrid between that Mumford Sound and those sweet African influences. Not two approaches that I would have credited working well together, but here it is natural and seamless. Yes!

Wona (1, 2, 3), is bouncy, beautiful world music fun, with a half-time chorus bit. I could listen to this all day, even the parts that sound a bit too much like the Lion King theme.

Fool You’ve Landed (2,3) starts with some tribal drum sounds and breaks into a fairly straight-up pop song. It’s damn catchy and happy-making, and features excellent playing by the band(s).

Ngamila (1,3) is a dreamy pop tune that drifts along pleasantly, with a haunting guitar line underscoring the amazing vocals. It builds and builds but never falls apart.

Si Tu Veux (1,3) lets those sultry vocals carry us into a truly mesmerizing beat with those synths hanging behind it all, and then it shifts and crashes in on the build and it hits ecstatic emotion and catharsis. This may be the best track here!

In Sum:

This EP has atmosphere, that overriding feeling that no matter what else is going on in the world, no matter our differences or where we’re from, music will give us a bond that cannot be shaken. Every player here nails it, and even switching between languages wasn’t distracting at all. I came away feeling like this was a completely, beautifully realized project.

I wish this was a full-length album. Full marks.


Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More

I cannot stop listening to this record. I bought it based solely on hearing Little Lion Man on Youtube, but a full listening reveals that there really isn’t a bad song here. It is very rare for me to have an album’s worth of songs embedded so deeply in my head that I hear them everywhere I go, a soundtrack to my entire day. There’s something plaintive and pained in these songs, but that feeling is also uplifted by a soaring sense of understanding of the world, and of self, and of the heart. This is pub music, love songs, philosophical rambles, pure poetry and cool folk pop rock all rolled together. Hot damn.

It’s not like I’m on the cutting edge by finding these guys at this point, with them having been playing for four years or so already, but I really wish I had heard of them sooner, just so I could’ve had these songs in my player that much sooner. This feels like one of those old classic records, one that people acknowledge over time as one of the Important Ones That Matter. But the bonus for us is that we get to recognize it Now!

There are a ton of comparisons to other bands I hear here, like if Paddy Casey or David Gray sang for Spirit Of The West or Great Big Sea and had Dave Matthews Band along for the ride, and some of the instrumental runs and slower songs remind clearly of the cool backing tracks on, of all things, Sting’s Ten Summoners Tales. And there are many others too, but it does a true disservice to these (clearly) superlative musicians to say anything other than they are themselves, fully, and they shouldn’t sound any other way. Their energy, passion, intelligence and infectiousness are the best thing I’ve heard in ages, the best New Record By A New-To-Me Band that I’ve brought home in a long time.

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