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Album review: Bear’s Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 August 2016

Bear's Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain

Bear's Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain

Archant

A lyrical wolf in a musical sheep’s clothing, more than anything this feels like a missed opportunity.

Now with just two central members following the departure of guitarist Joey Haynes, singer-guitarist Andrew Davie and multi-instrumentalist Kev Jones had their work cut out following up their 2014 debut Islands, which boasted the Ivor Novello-nominated Above The Clouds Of Pompeii.

Written during a brief break from touring their debut around the world and recorded straight after they came off the road, Red Earth filters their wide-angle, heart-on-sleeve folk through a battery of synths, swapping out the grain of finger-picked acoustic guitar for the polished sheen of electronica.

While the lyrics retain the humanity and emotional focus of their debut, and folk song structures can still be spotted, the immediacy is lost in favour of sustained, sonorous arrangements.

The title track outlines the album’s problem, with soul-baring lyrics let down by Davie’s beige delivery and arrangements that feel too restrained; hindered and smothered rather than helped by the electronic elements.

Overall the songs are fine, in the same way motorway service station toilets are - sanitised, interchangeable, unmemorable. Truthfully, the songwriting holding it together is promising but the arrangements and Davie’s uninspiring vocal just flatten all that, and they end up sounding like countless other milky and mild bands.

Sure, there are some better bits - Emerald’s mellifluous guitar lines over a cantering pace and pleading vocals work well, for one. But it’s all too fleeting.

“You’ll always be the love of my life” Davie sings on the flimsy Roses On A Breeze, which cries out for a singer who can wring every ounce of emotion out of the baleful lyrics and distract from a shallow musical execution.

A lyrical wolf in a musical sheep’s clothing, more than anything this feels like a missed opportunity.

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