Rating: * * * *
The Brits have had a love affair with American bands like Kings of Leon and Fleet Foxes and now, in Mumford & Sons, they might just have a folk country rock band to proudly call their own.
Band leader and songwriter Marcus Mumford's voice moves between a croaky country lilt and a tortured and over-wrought style similar to Finn Andrews of the Veils. And musically the British band are like a mix of Kings of Leon and Grizzly Bear, the wistful beauty of Fleet Foxes, with a sound rooted in the thigh-slapping tradition of folk.
Yet there is nothing copycat about these four friends who formed out of the London underground folk scene three years ago and who share a love of country, bluegrass and folk.
The beautiful Winter Winds has a wandering gypsy-folk mood thanks to the mix of regal brass and carefree banjo playing; Roll Away Your Stone and Little Lion Man escalate into rollicking guitar, banjo and dobro-driven yarns; and I Gave You All is an all-in chorale-like lovelorn tune.
At first, songs like The Cave come across as dark, with Mumford reeling off a steady serenade about nooses, necks, and choking, but as with much of the album, hollering lyrics like "I'll find strength in pain" and the joyous instrumentation give it an uplifting and almost celebratory tone.
If anything, Mumford & Sons are still a little earnest, but they are anything but hick and hokey.