Release Date: Jul 22, 2016
Record label: The Communion Label
When Bear's Den appeared a little over three years ago, it wasn't just me who they made a lasting impression upon. Crafting a richly emotive brand of folk, the trio garnered fans on both sides of the Atlantic and even as far afield as Australia thanks to their traditionally rigorous approach to touring. Such an approach does have its downsides. Lengthy time away from home, as well travelling in close proximity inevitably leads to relationships both in-band and out being pushed to their limits, something which arguably attributed to the amicable departure of founding member Joey Haynes early in the year.
It can often be hard for bands that are typecast as emerging from the success of another to ever escape the shadow of that likeness. This is certainly something that Bear’s Den have encountered. In the wake of Mumford And Sons’ success and the subsequent critical backlash towards bands going down the nu-folk route, it was almost inevitable that the project of Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones would draw such comparisons.
The folk-pop of Bear’s Den’s 2014 debut Islands drew inevitable comparisons with Mumford & Sons, their friends and occasional tourmates. The comparison still stands on their second album, which trades in the same widescreen rock music as the Mumfords’ last album, itself influenced by the air-punching Americana of the War on Drugs. There’s no faulting the conviction with which Bear’s Den set about the tropes of epic American road music: singer Andrew Davie goes big on themes of love and anguish, songs such as Roses on a Breeze move smoothly through the gears towards windswept climaxes.
Whereas Bear’s Den placed themselves firmly in the cutesier corners of nu-folk with debut Islands, Red Earth and Pouring Rain shoots for epic, spacious, War on Drugs-inspired Americana. It’s a surprising transformation, and one that perhaps will be unfairly compared to Mumford & Sons’ clumsy 2015 effort Wilder Mind. Where the Mumfords' third effort was perhaps last year’s most painfully middle-of-the-road release, Bear’s Den’s second record is far more considered and interesting, and while imperfect in execution it’s refreshing to see a genuine evolution in sound from a band so closely associated with the modern folk revival.