Bear's Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:7 Release Date:2016-07-24

Red Earth and Pouring Rain, the title of the second and latest album from London’s Bear’s Den, is also the name of a book by Vikram Chandra that fuses a narrative about three college kids in search of America with classic Indian mythology. Press releases focus on the Americana aspect, in particular the stark and haunting works of painter Edward Hopper. If you can picture Edward Hopper’s paintings set to music, you may get some idea of what’s going on in this expressive, plaintive, and rootsy album.

Referencing those American songwriters whose canons are often chock full of bittersweet lamentations about lost America, Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones, the duo at the core of Bear’s Den, write evocative songs about love, loneliness, and lost people, as in the “Broken Parable,” a song that invokes The Joshua Tree era U2. I was also reminded of Springsteen and Peter Gabriel’s more introspective works from several decades past. The title cut has a sense of triumph amidst the moody synthesizers and reverberating guitars, with the question posed “Don’t you remember love, don’t you remember anything?”

“Fortress” drags a bit for me, with keyboards building to a soaring height atop a pounding percussive beat, but the crescendo comes a bit too late. Single “Auld Wives” has a feel of Gabriel’s more moving numbers, and serves as an appropriate entry point for the uninitiated.

“Napoleon” closes with a thoughtful examination of healing; “It’s not too late to mend,” but adding hints of frustration, “Don’t just say that we’re gonna get there. I wanna know when.” Somber horns take it to the coda and it’s a sweet finish.

Following the departure of Joey Haynes, the third member of their original lineup, the remaining mates chose to push through the obstacle and ended up producing a denser yet more approachable sound. This is an exquisite album of mostly sad songs, thus putting it in that specialized category of music for certain moods. For that purpose, it’s a wonderful addition to your collection.

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