Two years is a long time spent on the road. Many things can change, and given that Bear’s Den have been traversing the globe solidly following the momentum of their 2014 debut Islands, they would know that better than most.
The London band parted ways with founding member Joey Haynes mere months before unveiling their latest album Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and have since been functioning as a duo, performing with a six-piece touring band to bulk out their live experience. And they’ll need it, thanks to remaining members Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones opting to expand on the folk sound of their previous album; now we are in the territory of epic folk tracks infused with electronic soundscapes.
This broadening of scope serves them well for the songs that comprise their second album drift between grand and intimate. Tracks such as the recent single “Emeralds” shine thanks to the warm undercurrent of synths and yearning guitar that recalls the bold tones of the 80s, whilst “ Roses on a Breeze” is bittersweet in its nostalgia.
It is not all gung-ho however, for Bear’s Den have an evident penchant for the more introspective side of things. “Fortress” has a haunted confessionality barricaded behind its walls (there are also often times where Davie resembles City and Colour’s Dallas Green), and its not just electronics that soundtracks these emotive tales; smatterings of brass are weaved into epic “Broken Parable” and the earnest “Napoleon”.
It is almost instinctive to make comparisons for nu-folk acts with Mumford and Sons, yet most of the time it is unfounded. Fortunately, Bear’s Den surpasses the banjo-wielding foursome with a subtlety and composure such as the pulsing slow burn of the title track and their striking single “Auld Wives”; it may be driven, but it is painfully constructed instead of crude.
Often at odds with the acoustic nature of Visions, Red Earth and Pouring Rain breathes life into a tried and tested genre and, in turn, Bear’s Den themselves as they shake off their out-dated skins for a mode a bit more distinctive. A band revitalised and moving on, Red Earth and Pouring Rain is an ode to relationships, past and present, all that they were and what they could have been.