It used to be that, if you were describing a folk band, you couldn’t help but compare them to Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. Or, if you were being really uncharitable, The Spinners. And not the Detroit kind. But now you can’t play any kind of folk music without the M word being brought up. And that goes double when one of your singers sounds more than a little like their singer.
But so what? Does it matter if Keston Cobblers’ Club, whose new album – Wildfire – is out on June 15th, have a touch of the Mumfords about them? Especially if Mumford & Sons have stopped dancing with the one what brung them and moved onto a different sound?
No, I’m not having it. The vital ingredients that made Mumford & Sons a rewarding, folksy if not folky listen are present here, and it’s not bad thing. Wildfire is the Bromley quintet’s second album, after 2012’s One, For Words, and continues where that long player left off, mining a rich seam of beautifully-arranged, often surprising sounds that weave a full and florid sleeve out of the influences worn proudly upon it.
The twin vocals of brother-sister leads Matt & Julia Lowe pick and pluck, rise and fall, and wind and unwind. Yes, Matt sounds like Marcus Mumford, but organically so – no mimicry here, especially when fused with his sister’s harmonies. The rest of the band – Tom, Bethan & Harry – throw in with drums, guitars, banjos, fiddles, and tubas – yes, a TUBA – to create a mature sound without all the negative cache that word usually coughs out.
This is modern folk music with nods to the past and to the present and stumbling forth into a future for which the definitive music is yet to be written because every time someone nails it the future changes and makes it anachronistic. I can’t say with any certainty that Wildfire will be the soundtrack for when we finally get our jet packs and robot butlers, but it will make time pass a little more pleasantly while we get there.
Wildfire is released on June 15th on Tricolour Records. Keston Cobblers’ Club play the exciting-sounding Camp Wildfire festival on June 19-21, other assorted festivals over the summer months, and then embark on their own tour around these isles in October. You can find details here.