Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bear's Den at the Mercury Lounge

Bear's Den is Andrew Davies, Kevin Jones and Joey Haynes, a trio of multi-instrumentalists that formed in the neo-Americana-style folk scene brewing in London, England. Jones was in a band called Hot Rocket with Ben Lovett (later of Mumford & Sons), and together Jones and Lovett launched the Communion record company, music community and concert series in 2006. Jones and Davie played together in a folk-rock quartet called Cherbourg in 2008; the band recorded two EPs before splitting in 2010. Seeking a more innovative vehicle for his music, Davie formed Bear's Den as a quintet in 2012, although the band since has decreased to three members. Bear's Den will release a second EP, Without/Within, on March 3. Bear's Den will unveil a full-length album later in 2014.

At the Mercury Lounge tonight, Bear's Den challenged the parameters of folk music. The set was comprised of confessional reflections in the common singer-songwriting vein. The majority of the songs were led appropriately by acoustic guitar and/or banjo, and often were powered by meticulous three-part harmony. These songs were sweet, warm and charming, reminiscent of Wilco, the Avett Brothers, City & Colour and even Crosby, Stills & Nash. A set of songs like these would have been sufficient for a positive review. Working fundamentally from a traditional-sounding home-spun country-folk-harmony core, Bear's Den also showed its adventurous side. For instance, Jones often played banjo, acoustic guitar or bass, but periodically used an electric guitar as a channel for a soft but coarse feedback and reverberation, employing various foot pedals for distortion and other effects. Haynes usually sat at his drum kit, but occasionally played bass or acoustic guitar as well as drums, both simultaneously and alternately. Integrity was at the base of the creative process, and recreating that experience for the stage amounted to very pleasing and refreshing results. Furthering the validity of Brits playing genuine American folk music, the trio descended with acoustic guitars into the center of the audience for a few unplugged songs near the end of the brilliant set. One could draw the conclusion that once again the United Kingdom is poised to conquer the United States using our own weapons.

Bear's Den performs as part of the Communion line-up at Rockwood Music Hall on March 4. Visit Bear's Den at www.bearsdenmusic.co.uk.