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Mumford & Sons strike a common chord

The London lads' acoustic music sells almost improbably well. Maybe that's the result of being hands-on, taking hand-played music to crowds that sing along.

November 04, 2012|By Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times

Indeed, all of this maneuvering seems secondary to the powerful sense of belonging the band's songs engender among its fans. Not unlike Adele, whose "21" was last year's bestselling album, Mumford & Sons offers a chance to stand up for hand-played music in an age of machine-made pop; it embodies the feel-good realism of people singing and playing instruments onstage.

And yet the group isn't didactic about its position, vastly increasing its appeal for listeners with no horse in the authenticity race. In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Marcus Mumford declined to describe the band's music as bluegrass or any other traditional form, saying, "We just call ourselves a rock band, really."

It's a refreshingly anti-purist mind-set audible throughout "Babel," on which acoustic guitars mingle with spacey sound effects and Mumford's often-sensual vocals act as more than a lyric-delivery device. (Both of the band's albums were produced by Markus Dravs, who's also worked with the sonic tinkerers in Coldplay.)

And with its period-picture wardrobe and foot-stomping singalongs, Mumford & Sons openly embraces a spirit of big-tent showmanship — the residual effect, perhaps, of Mumford's parents' leadership role in the Christian-evangelical Vineyard church.

In April the frontman married the English actress Carey Mulligan, seemingly ensuring continued exposure to the dramatic realm.

With "Babel" out for only a little more than a month, it's too early to say how much higher Mumford & Sons might fly — or how much further the band's influence might extend. "We'll have to wait and see if any of these other bands end up being more than just a song," says KROQ's Worden. "I'm not quite ready to put my money on the folk revival."

Nor, truth be told, is Lovett. "We haven't got very lofty aspirations when it comes to all that," the keyboardist admits. "We're not trying to restart any movement."

The way he tells it, the band's motivation is more immediate.

"It's pretty much, 'Oh, you've got a song? That sounds good. I feel the exact same way. Let's play that tonight.'"

mikael.wood@latimes.com

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