Long before I ever heard they released anything my students ( I was a University Chaplain at the time) were raving about Mumford & Sons. Their live act is perhaps what they are actually about. It is about the happening and the joyous or time lamenting vibe created within a community. That some of the band started out doing worship music makes more sense of the experiential in the DNA.

It is also perhaps why they have been releasing live DVDs and CDs throughout their career.

This is a most delightful souvenir of their Delta Tour in 2019. In just six songs they have documented that trademark organic energy as well as their love for the communal; Gang Of Youths, Milk Carton Kids and Dermot Kennedy guesting.

As well as three guests, there are three covers. The last one With A Little Help From My Friends has the mighty Irish voice of Dermot Kennedy joining in and it is a perfect sign long for that community aspect of a Mumford gig.

Most intriguing is their attempt at Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. Hurt became iconic as the last testament of Johnny Cash. They Mumfords do a. Great job at belting those two versions together starting out stark and then lifting to the loudest of raged out crescendos. 

The third cover is originally by Australian band The Middle East and the guests are another Australian band Gang Of Youths who were the support act on the Delta Tour. Blood is a mysterious lyric, poetic and meandering. There is a lot of death and it is that cathartic side of Mumford, blending lament and hope:


And you’ll find somebody you can blame

And you’ll follow the creek that runs out into the sea

And you’ll find the peace of the Lord


The other collaboration is on a vintage Mumford original. The Milk Carton Kids. Their lo-fi feel makes Awake My Soul into this meditative near liturgical piece. I want to play it in my daily devotions and seek the Spirit’s grace and imagination to live its proverbial wisdom:


“In these bodies we will live

And in these bodies we will die

Where you invest your love

You invest your life


Awake my soul”


Delta Tour EP is an utter treat. Side 2 with Hurt, Awake My Soul and With A Little Help From My Friends is one of the tastiest sides of a live EP you’ll hear in a long while.



Delta is Mumford & Sons growing up record. Now of course, they have been big boys since Sigh No More dropped, to a success they never dreamed of, a decade ago. For years following that success, they lived in the bubble of the road but for the last three years admit to re-entering the real world for the first time in their working lives. 

Delta is a collection of songs by a few men who have come off the stage to find themselves living in a fallen world. Their new environment is best described in Darkness Visible, their reading of part of Milton’s Paradise Lost though the reading is actually done by Gill Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show.

How good Delta is depends. It depends if you are wanting the kind of sales that the band enjoyed with Sign No More and Babel? It depends on whether you are wanting to jig around to every song. At their Belfast gig Marcus Mumford, himself, said, “Thank you for being patient with the new songs. I know some of you just want us to play Little Lion Man 15 times”.

On the sales it is good that this band are on Island Records the label of all labels who have patience with their artists. Massive sales has never got in the way of development of art at Island. If you are wanting more and more Little Lion Men then you will be disappointed and can I ask you to not be lazy; listen to more than Guiding Light!

Guiding Light was a clever lead off single for all of the above parties. The Little Lion Man fans think the banjo is back. Let’s get a load of that and Island Records can smack a sticker on front saying “Includes Guiding Light” to draw in the Little Lion Man fan club!

Guiding Light is a powerful song, probably the antidote to Darkness Visible but this is no revival of the old sound. The old instrument is back but what they have done with it is worth a good music review in itself. Throughout the record it is used in creative ways never before conjured, the riff on Beloved, jangling in and out of Rose Of Sharon, a strong deliberate guide across Delta as the whole thing heads towards the open sea!

Producer Paul Epworth has broadened the Mumford palette with ideas and little deft touches of beats and electronica. The Wild sounds like something Elbow might conjure with that orchestral build. Darkness Visible has a mid sixties psychedelic sound somewhere between In Search of the Lost Chord Moody Blues and White album Beatles. 

October Skies with delicate autumnal piano and gentle harmonies is gorgeous and Psalmlike spiritual. Surely stadiums across the world will soon be filled with the stunning pop singalong of Forever. These last two songs are as fine a work of songwriting craft that these guys they have produced to date. 

Marcus Mumford’s voice has matured too. It laments and soars. It groand one moment and is finds slants of hope the next. His working with T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, Jim James, Rhiannon Giddens and Taylor Goldsmith on lost Bob Dylan lyrics has not done his creative processes any harm!

I am always intrigued by the theology of Mumford & Sons. When I spoke about the band in American Colleges five years ago I concentrated on the darkness and light of the first two records. That battle still rages on Delta. Those are still the key words. There’s a lot of fear in these songs but a lot of shelter and refuge too.

Little spiritual gems sometimes take years to drop out of a Mumford & Sons' song into my soul but as they have called it an album about “death, divorce, drugs and depression”, to which I might add doubt, then there is a voice in the song Beloved which I might surmise is Marcus’s Grandmother that maybe put this thesis in a couplet:


“She says the Lord has a plan

But admits it's pretty hard to understand”


While we unravel that one, a fascinating, mature and eclectic album by Mumford & Sons will be a very welcome companion indeed. Like faith it is a slow burn into something more fulfilling.


Mumford & Sons Wilder Mind

Last April I did a wee tour of America doing my theo-musicology thing and split my events between speaking about U2 and Mumford & Sons. Speaking about Mumford & Sons, in Dayton University with a brilliant live student band and in Calvin College with video and a huge screen, gave me a ten day opportunity to over-indulge in Mumford music. I really enjoyed it. I caught songs and theological phrases and live performances that were truly inspirational. I enjoyed the experience. 

It was in one airport lounge, probably in the midwest, that I came to the conclusion that the next Mumford & Sons record would have to be a change of musical direction. They simply could not get away with banjos and double basses one more time. Now, when they started out this was never going to be a dilemma. There is no way these guys ever thought they would be almost the biggest band on the planet by 2013. I don’t believe they ever saw that coming. Indeed Marcus Mumford has recently said he wouldn’t have his own name in the band moniker if he had to do it again. That’s because he never thought it would ever be such a household name. After 7 million record sales however you are more in the spotlight and, as this band knows too well, in the firing line of the critics wrath.

So, I was right and here is the very different Mumford & Sons third album. It is such a radical shift of direction that there literally are no banjos at all. It was of course a lose lose. Had they stayed with the formula they would have got tanked. If they changed the formula they were going to get tanked!

So, as many reviewers take this opportunity for the Mumford & Sons backlash, what do I think? Well, this is a good record. I have always been fond of Marcus Mumford’s voice and I am enjoying the new shimmering rock backing. The record reveals that this band are great players and were not hiding behind an organic novelty sound. To create such a shift in their art form with such panache is quite a feat and, as I started this paragraph, this is a good record. 

The British press might use comparisons with Coldplay and Snow Patrol while the Americans might point to The War On Drugs and The National. The National’s guitarist produced the record and there is no doubt that that has had a influence but the record is probably something more of an amalgam of all of those bands with, if you listen carefully, a huge dollop of Mumford & Sons thrown in. Amidst the full-on near Kings Of Leon-like assaults there are at times more subtle rhythms and delicate touches where the old template can be heard. And of course there are some old style dramatic building climaxes; banjo-less yes but Mumford-like all the same.

It is perhaps not the lack of banjo that cause the lack in Wilder Mind. There is also a lack in the theological rhyming nuggets that set Sign No More and Babel apart for me. After a first listen to Sign No More I was so affected by the rhyming spiritual gems that I suggested that Bono and U2 could retire, the mantle could be handed over. I also cautiously added, however, that before I should start thinking about a Spiritual Journey Of M & S book, as I did with U2, that we would need another couple of albums to see where it all went. As I pour over Wilder Mind I am wondering which songs will fit into a Gospel According To… Mumford & Sons that I am planning for the autumn.

On first listens there might be very few. Yet, let us not be too rash. Mumford might have gotten a little more obtuse. Like when The National disappointed me when the clarity of Boxer was followed by the ambiguity of High Violet so maybe Marcus has become more implicit than explicit. After a few listens I was wondering if it was a Springsteen Tunnel Of Love-like album cataloguing his rather hasty break up with actress Carey Mulligan. Google immediately suggested no as the news sites have just declared that they are expecting their first child.

I have since heard that Mumford is perhaps not the principle lyricist in some of the album's songs which might explain the depressing lyrics sung by a man just married and about to start a family. It might also explain the less spiritual nature of the record. The rest of the band seems to have struggled with the Christian link to Mumford whose parents were Church missioners. Whatever, under the vagueness, there are still words like faith and truth and grace and devil. Some of the lyrics I am drawn to and surmising are:

In the place that's safe from harm

I had been blessed with a wilder mind (Wilder Mind)


You have been weighed you have been found wanting (The Wolf)


I never tried to trick you babe

I just tried to work it out

But I was swallowed up by doubt

If only things were black and white

Cause I just want to hold your tight

Without holding back my mind

Without holding back my mind (Tompkins Square Park)


But when you feel the world wrapping round your neck

Feel my hand round yours

And when you feel the world wrapping round your neck

Don't succumb (Broad-Shouldered Beasts)


And I hunger and I thirst

For some shiver

For some whispered words

And a promise to come (Only Love)


Didn't they say that only love will win in the end (Only Love)

That latter song, Only Love, is perhaps the song that you think might have been written in the days before banjos and explicit faith was jettisoned. Jesus’ Beatitudes get a mention and it might just be that Marcus was reading Rob Bell’s most controversial book in recent Christendom, Love Wins!

All, in all, I would suggest that Wilder Mind is an artistic success. The tricky transition has been made. It should be radio friendly and stadium rockin’ comfortable enough to be a success. For me, will I be listening to it in five years time? I don’t know but by then Wilder Mind Volume 2 might take it to another level!



“Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man, 
you were made to be                                                                                                                                                                                                                         There is a design, an alignment to cry,
At my heart you see, t
he beauty of love, as it was made to be.”

-      From Sigh No More by Mumford & Sins

Sigh No More is a song that begins with a declaration of serving God as the human vocation, reminds us of the frailty and failings of humanity before concluding with these words which in context can only be seen as God’s love bringing humanity back to ultimate fulfillment. The love of God will not betray you or enslave you. It will give you that freedom that all of humanity is yearning for. If Mumford and Sons are making this declaration to a world seeking Cosmic answers I can’t help but hear a prophetic challenge to the Churches who claim to be about God’s love. Is the love that the Church pumps out a love that will not betray and enslave? Many Churches who have claimed love have enslaved their people in a new legalism and conformity. That is not God’s love. To Test if your Church is living God’s love you can use the Mumford & Sons test – Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you/It will set you free.”  



CSN & YMumford

“If you're down and confused

And you don't remember who you're talking to

Concentration slips away

Because your baby is so far away

Well there's a rose in a fisted glove

And the eagle flies with the dove

And if you can't be with the one you love, honey

Love the one you're with

You gotta love the one you're with”

-       From Love The One You’re With by Crosby, Stills & Nash

I have been a late convert to the amazing harmonies and songs Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. How diod I get to 50 without them! The sixties idea of a better world rang beautifully through their harmonies and their guitar work outs raged at injustice. Their hippy dream appealed to my Christian eschatological hopefulness. This song, though, stuck in my throat and bugged my soul. This is where the soul of the hippy got so open minded that God leaked out and a promiscuity that might not have caused the HIV virus but certainly didn’t help when it crashed in.

“So love the one you hold

And I will be your goal

To have and to hold

A lover of the light”

 from Lover of The Light by Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons put a different spin on romantic love. With this song, love is about faithfulness and commitment. Thge Babel album, though in many places Old Testamnet lament, was written and released as Marcus Mumford was readying to marry actress Carey Mulligan and the joy and commitment to love is another recurring theme. “Light” in Mumford speak can with very little digging up of evidence, hint at the Divine. A different source for romantic protocol and our entire society might benefit from the living out.


Sigh No More

“Love; it will not betray you

Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free

Be more like the man you were made to be

And there is a design, an alignment to cry

Of my heart to see,

The beauty of love as it was made to be”

   -   From Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons

The more you listen to Mumford & Sons the more spiritual insights you glean.  Whatever the label that they want or don't want to put of their music it is difficult not to label their songs as spiritual works of art creating re-imaginings at the heart of the human contradiction. These guys make melody for that place where human frailty and grace induced redemption meets.

These lyrics, from the title track of their debut album Sign No More, have become my mantra and mission statement in pastoral ministry. I might be wrong but I wonder if Marcus Mumford is having a little swipe here at the legalists in the Christian Church? Is he accusing them of a false love that betrayed, dismayed or enslaved? Real Christian love, which is a recurring theme on the Sign No More album, is about setting free, another theme returned to more than once. 

God’s grace is not an enslaver but the great liberator. To be set free from society’s demands and expectations and find your true self, aligned to God, our fellow humans and all of God’s creation. This is the ultimate beauty of love and our true humanity. The role of the Church is to be the resource by which the individual and society can be shaped and honed into God’s design. My role is to plan and preach and pray that my congregation in Fitzroy are set free from all that would burden, hinder or curtail the Holy Spirit’s work of righteousness; a righteousness that does not enslave but sets its all free to serve.

Our branding in Fitzroy is 10:10. The youth and children have it all over their hoodies. Yes, it happens to be my birthday but it is John 10 verse 10 when Jesus says, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy but I have come that they may have life and life in all its fullness." That verse and these words from Mumford are what drives the ministry of Fitzroy - "the beauty of love as it was made to be" will be a resource for that "life in all its fullness."

THE WELCOME AT THE RESTART - Mumford & Sons' Theology Of Grace


“It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart”

From Mumford and Sons’ Roll Away The Stone

These words of Mumford and Sons made me literally jump in my kitchen the first time I heard the album. It is such concise theology, so well written and so profoundly true.

It is the secret of Christianity’s uniqueness. Most religions have some kind of deal with karma and balancing the good and bad we do. Christianity sits out like a freaky sore thumb with a ridiculous truth; we don’t go on a spiritual journey towards enlightenment or salvation or holiness or however you want to define spiritual fulfilment but it is the entry point. The journey starts here.

Jesus spoke about it in that story about the Prodigal Son. When he faced up to his father after squandering his inheritance on all kinds of self indulgent hedonism he didn’t even get a chance to deal with his dad. His dad puts his arms around him and throws a party for him even before he can do anything to make amends.

For the Prodigal Son it wasn’t the road that somehow earns his grace but the welcome his father gives him. Jesus didn’t only talk about this kind of grace. He shows it to the disciples who became his apostles. They were welcomed into belonging at the start of their long road to making sense of it. The woman caught in the act of adultery received the same warm grace filled welcome and then was told to go on the journey and sin no more!

Christians believe that it is not the work of a person that puts them right with God but the work that Jesus did in his life and particularly in his death and resurrection. Christ’s work puts the human right with God, we are welcomed in by grace and from there we get to work on God’s grand design to bring his Kingdom and his will on earth as it is in heaven.

As a preacher there is no better news to share than what Mumford and Sons declare right here. It is amazing grace that welcomes us in without having to earn it. Then that same grace leads us on the journey home.


Mumford 2 

“But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand
Hold your hand...”

-      From Timshel by Mumford and Sons

These words have brought me strength this week as I gaze across the panorama of my congregation and as the pastor feel the hurt of so many. Some are in hospital, some are grieving and others are hurting for family and friends in crisis. In it all, I thank God that I belong to a community that not only prays for each other but shows tangible love and support in their indiscriminate acts of kindness (but that is Foy Vance!). I am so delighted to part of a people where as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 12:26: If one part suffers, every part suffers with it...”

God never intended us to be islands. From the community of the three-in-one mystery of the Trinity to the “it is not good for man to be alone” in early Genesis, the wisdom of God is relationship and community. It is well catalogued that those who live in isolation struggle in many psychological ways. We are wired for human interaction and now live in a modern western world in the midst of social break down. Into that void the Church should be an alternative model of human interdependency. Mumford and Sons capture this support network of community beautifully. The words speak of a unity of people that has a strength to see us through are illnesses, grieving and heartaches. 


Mumford on Rolling Stone

At the weekend, Drew Marshall on his Canadian radio show asked me if I thought that the “are U2 Christians” debate was over. I answered that I thought it was but that Marcus Mumford would now be the one that the Christian subculture would be arguing over.  Mumford & Sons two albums have been riddled with confessions, prayers and illusions to Christian faith. The Christian subculture has known for some time that Mumford’s parents were leaders in Vineyard UK Church and the charismatic evangelical nature of that Church.

In the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, however, Mumford speaks in public for the first time about faith and will have gotten that Christian subculture all a tizzy. Though UK music magazines have no interest in discussing Christianity or spirituality, American journalists love it and, in the main, really understand it. So Rolling Stone asked Marcus Mumford if he considered himself a Christian.  Mumford answered, "I don't really like that word. It comes with so much baggage, so, no, I wouldn't call myself a Christian.” He goes on, “I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don't really like. I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who He was. Like, you ask a Muslim and they'll say, 'Jesus was awesome'—they're not Christians, but they still love Jesus.” Mumford then describes himself as “a work in progress.”

That is a lot of fodder for that Christian subculture that loves to be obsessed with whether people are with them or not, always keen to claim celebrities as Christians but just as eager to close the Kingdom gate on them when they don’t shape up. Relevant magazine, dear to my own heart as publishers of my books, have already weighed into the discussion. Though making a few good points there is one line that is concerning. They conclude the quotes above about Muslims loving Jesus with this, “So, let’s recap. Jesus is awesome. Muslims are awesome for thinking that Jesus is awesome. But Christians? Not so awesome.” Now that is not what Marcus Mumford said or was getting at. It is little wonder he is concerned about speaking about his faith to journalists when even the Christian ones misrepresent him.

The first thing we have to do in such a scenario is ask the context of the statements. We all say things differently in different situations. The way we speak to our closest friends is not the same we speak in public places or indeed even with other friends. Marcus Mumford is being interviewed in a music magazine. Like U2 before him he is aware of how this will be taken. I heard once that when Bono had given a couple of Philip Yancey books to Noel Gallagher he told him not to mention it to the press as they don’t understand. Bono was saying that how you are understood in a rock magazine interview is open to more misunderstanding than on a one to one conversation with a friend over time.Even in my limited experience I am always on my guard against a pushy journalist looking for a quote!

Second, I have huge sympathy with Mumford’s response. One of my friends told me recently that he had asked his teenage son if he told his atheist friend he was a Christian and he responded. “It’s kind of hard, dad, to defend Christianity when you realise all that has been done in its name!” There have been times when I speak of myself as follower of Jesus more than a Christian because there are many things about right wing American Christianity that I don’t want to be confused with. Or even right wing Northern Ireland Christianity! In this interview Marcus Mumford doesn’t make any denials about Jesus, just about a perception of Christianity. Anyway, in the Bible Christians didn’t call themselves Christians, other people called them Christians when they had witnessed something of Christ within them. If I pick up a guitar I could call myself a guitarist. If I can play it so well that Eric Clapton says, “He’s a guitarist” then maybe I can take the name! Maybe what Marcus Mumford has issues with should never have been given the adjective Christian in the first place. Maybe!

Thirdly, whatever Mumford defines his own faith does not make the theological brilliance of his songs any less true. I have found Mumford & Sons songs very helpful in for my own mind and soul. I have even used them in a Communion liturgy. That line about grace, “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart/But the welcome I receive with the restart,” is profoundly true and quotable no matter whether the writer declares himself in or out of Christianity. Either it is truth or truth becomes relative to who speaks it. When I was doing the round of Christian radio stations, at the time of Walk On being published, they could play U2 songs but not U2’s versions! That for me was much more concerning than anything Marcus Mumford said in this interview.

As a Church pastor I need to ask myself, and my God, what response I should have to Mumford’s interview. How do I care for and engage with his thoughts? Should I allow his words to interrogate how I am doing my faith and how the Church is? Or are there deeper questions lurking around the seismic shifts on “Christian” faith in our generation? Relevant’s Lillian Daniel had the right to declare that “It's OK to Call Yourself a Christian”  but I am not sure that the strap-line “Why Marcus Mumford’s take on the “Christian” label doesn’t hold up,” holds up. I don’t think that Marcus was making that call. I think he was maneuvering the tricky world of the press. For me Lillian’s article needs taken separately from The Rolling Stone one but, in the end, Marcus Mumford is not going to be the least bit bothered by Relevant or Steve Stockman or whether you agree with him or them or me! Maybe he is more secure in his beliefs about Jesus than those of us who have debate whether he is in or out of the Kingdom of God. Maybe!



Lyric For The Day 21.1.13 from Babel by Mumford & Sons


“'Cause I'll know my weakness, know my voice

And I believe in grace and choice

And I know perhaps my heart is fast,

But I’ll be born without a mask”

-         From Babel by Mumford & Sons

I love these lines from the title track of Mumford & Son’s new record. The Old Testament  title of song and album give away the Biblical
themes that again lie deep in the lyrics of Marcus Mumford. Babel is a rich metaphor for the pilgrimage that Mumford is on. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, it speaks of a people attempting to reach God and God throwing them into confusion. Genesis is the Biblical book that lets us know what went wrong with humanity, suggesting that our dissatisfaction with being creatures caused us to reach to the same level as our Creator As we reached to be more than we were we ended up less than we were. The architects of Babel ended up confused and divided. Babel is also another word for Babylon introduced into the language of rock by Bob Marley. As the Rastas saw Babylon as a place where faith was compromised, a place at odds with the holiness of soul. Mumford takes the spirit of Marley’s Caribbean Rasta belief into anglophile Christian.  In the city that nurtured my greed and my pride” Mumford is seeking for the walls to be torn

Whichever idea inspired Mumford, like a Psalmist his songs are littered with an honesty of faith, honest about his own spiritual condition and honest in his questions before God. He never shirks the anomalies or seeming contradictions. He never leaves out the weaknesses of his spiritual pilgrimage  and yet always there at the end of every doubt or failing there is belief. Again here in Babel, we find him acknowledge his weakness but he also knows his contribution and gifts. He believes that grace is an overriding energy in the Universe as God loves unconditionally but he is tossed around in the choices he has to make before the world and under the Divine. In the end rebirth is hoped for and it is a resurrection that unveils everything, no more delusions or lies. His voice will at last be untainted and fulfilled.