Release Date: Jul 15, 2013
Record label: Fika Recordings
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Last year, Hayman, backed by The Long Parliament, turned out a career highlight with The Violence, a 20-song chronicle of the 17th-century Essex Witch Trials. Bugbears is a companion album, with Hayman, backed this time by The Short Parliament, reworking 13 traditional songs from the same century. Though the sleevenotes make reference to research in that sacred temple of English folk music, Cecil Sharp House, this is far from a purist exercise.
Following the terrific The Violence, the third and final album in Darren Hayman’s Essex Witch Trials trilogy, Hayman and his band The Short Parliament release Bugbears, an album about 17th and 18th century England. On Bugbears, the sometime Hefner lead singer and guitarist has offered a contemporary spin on old tales of woe, embodying the punk peasant spirit that characterizes some of the best releases by similar lyrics-heavy bands like The Mountain Goats. The songs on Bugbears recall drinking, brotherhood, and soldierhood in an old-timey, raw fashion that’s thankfully far from the overproduced folk pop of some of today’s most popular “folk” acts.
Ex-Hefner member Darren Hayman follows up April’s ‘Four Queens’ and last year’s ‘The Violence’ – about queens and the Civil War-era Essex witch trials respectively – with some updated versions of 17th-century folk songs. The concept may conjure up images of plump men in braces drinking real ale at a fête with other plump men in braces, but having edited the raw material, rewritten the lyrics and stamped his trademark cracked vocal vulnerability all over the basic material, ‘Bugbears’ ends up sounding like a stellar Darren Hayman album. ‘The Contented’ and ‘Impossibilities’ are like Hefner at their best, while ‘Seven Months Married’, with its warm acoustic strums and tale of a corrosive arranged marriage, is the kind of engaging, unfurling yarn that the 42-year-old has made his own since going solo.
Darren Hayman concluded his 'Essex trilogy' of albums with last autumn's The Violence, a long-planned study of the 17th century Essex Witch Trials. Bugbears is its companion piece, an album born from the same bout of research but concentrating on folk songs of the period, particularly those associated with the English Civil War. Compared to its sibling, Bugbears is the lesser work, recorded by a shortened and reshuffled line-up of Hayman's Long Parliament band.