There aren’t many bands these days that can claim to have three banjo players in their lineup, but Galway-based Majestic Bears are one that certainly can. Forming in 2012 under the name Fellow Strangers, this modern folk band eventually changed monikers to Majestic Bears in time to release debut EP Poems Addressed to the Sea last May.
On the whole, folk music is not something that’s hugely in the mainstream of modern music. Bands like Mumford and Sons bring it back to people’s attention, but other acts with a stronger folk grounding probably aren’t thrilled with a comparison to them or their like. Majestic Bears have a much more traditional folk sound, with a strong emphasis on wide, winding harmonies.
Opening song Victim of Fate in particular is steeped in this vocal style that wouldn’t be out of place on a Simon and Garfunkel track. This is an upbeat number with a cracking banjo riff (can’t say we’ve used that expression before). Some of the instrument timing borders on clunky, but this can be overlooked, and doesn’t necessarily jump out on first listen.
Next up is Babylon, a song with a guitar intro as tender as Jose Gonzalez’s Heartbeats. Unfortunately the banjo infusion in the chorus kills the established atmosphere somewhat, especially with the slightly audible tuning issues.
Closing the short EP is This Town, which brings the release back on track. A much more straightforward folk-pop track, this song features some harmonica which is a nice addition to the guitar, bass, banjo blend thus-far. The breakdown builds quite well to a climactic ending.
On the production end of things, there surely are some issues in these songs as regards tuning and timing. However as a first release, these can reasonably be rationally excused. The production quality doesn’t detract from the fact that these are well-crafted folk tracks, rooted in traditional, rustic sounds but with a modern appeal. We will be interested to give Majestic Bear’s next release a listen, and hopefully see some more of their potential realised.