Darren Hayman & The Short Parliament - Bugbears

Politics all the boxes

Last year, Hayman, backed by The Long Parliament, turned out a career highlight with The Violence, a 20-song chronicle of the 17th-century Essex Witch Trials. Bugbears is a companion album, with Hayman, backed this time by The Short Parliament, reworking 13 traditional songs from the same century.

Though the sleevenotes make reference to research in that sacred temple of English folk music, Cecil Sharp House, this is far from a purist exercise. In fact, Essex-indie vowels notwithstanding, there are unexpected Americanisms amid Hayman’s exploration of this most English of subjects. Babylon Has Fallen adapts the sort of folk-blues shuffle you might find on mid-70s Townes Van Zandt, while some of the album’s gentle, interlocking electric guitar-picking evokes third-album Velvets. A contemporary comparison
might be
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s
2012 collaboration with
Trembling Bells.

A strain of wistful longing,
traceable through much of
Hayman’s work, is present in
about half the songs, including
the title track and the
instrumentals Sir Thomas
Fairfax March and The Owl.
This is effectively juxtaposed
with ominous understatement,
and the shifting moods,
combined with varied
instrumentation including
harmonium, banjo and electric piano, make for an intriguing,
satisfying listen. Will Hayman
make this a trilogy, maybe
with an album about the
travails of Charles Edward
Stuart, the second Jacobite
pretender to the thrones of
England? We would welcome
it. 

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Fika | 024 (CD / LP)

Reviewed by Mark Brend
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