by reviewed by

The British indie-folk trio Bear's Den broke onto the music scene in 2012 with Islands, a largely acoustic debut. With songs like “Agape” and “Isaac,” fans could not help but wonder about the religious underpinnings of the album, winning easy comparison to Mumford and Sons.

With Red Earth & Pouring Rain, the now duo band expands on the nostalgic nerve of their first record by adding guitar-driven, drum-heavy anthems that achieve a pulsating hypnotic tone of yearning and unrest. The effect is a stirring throwback to music of the late 70s and early 80s, songs sung in mellow strains but backed by a soaring synth-led soundtrack. The album’s opening title track is haunting yet uplifting in its sonic construction, setting the tone for the tracks to follow; Andrew Davie endearingly asks, “Don’t you remember love?”

“A good metaphor for the mood [of the record] is the idea of driving forwards while looking in the rear view mirror,” says multi-instrumentalist Kevin Jones in one interview. In another, “We kind of wanted to make an album that you could drive at night to, like the way you can switch off to the whole record and just drive.” The album cover art of a woman driving a car at night is not accidental.

With song titles such as “New Jerusalem,” “Greenwoods Bethlehem,” and “Gabriel,” the religious ties in their music seem even more evident in this new recording. On “Broken Parable” Davies cries out, “Now I'm just a broken parable/Values I used to hold/Somewhere I lost it all/Babe, I'm dying to be born again.” While the record is rife with religious imagery and metaphors, Kevin Jones claims, “We're not a very religious band, or we're not a religious band at all, but we're just really interested in the language and the stories." In this way they are very like another British band, Coldplay.

Whatever Bear’s Den intent in “slouching toward Bethlehem” (Yeats), this is road music for souls in search of meaning. Put on your headphones or listen to the record while on a long drive and be transported “to find a way back home” to “some new Jerusalem.” It’s like dreaming while awake. (Communion Records)

About the Author

Robert N. Hosack is Executive Editor for Baker Publishing Group, and he is a member of Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.