Newgrass meets Afropop. Really.


Mumford & Sons with Baaba Maal, The Very Best, and Beatenburg 

Johannesburg (EP)
Glassnote Entertainment

Newgrass meets Afropop? This isn’t the same mixture of music that would obviously work, a la Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel. When I first heard of this union, I will admit to being skeptical. I was a fan of Mumford’s first two albums, and Wilder Mind was a grower for me.

“There Will Be Time” mixes the two styles most interestingly. The tune itself cites a bit of Ecclesiastes, and is worshipful in practice: “I live to love you and adore you.” Of course, it could be about a woman…

“Wona” begins as typical Mumford, then veers off into a direction that evokes Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.” This contains the troubled relationship line of the year so far: “I don’t want to vivisect your heart.” “Fool You’ve Landed” deals with the heart and being broken. “Ngamila” reverses the direction of “Wona”, beginning with African tribal music, then shifting back to Mumford’s Wilder Mind style. This last portrays a bit of obsession: “You’ll have all you want, when you’re held by me.”

Mumford & Sons’ last album was a departure, and Johannesburg is even more so. I’m not sure that it completely works, but there are some compelling pieces here.

Brian A. Smith