Awake My Soul

It was a quick four-song set, but that didn’t stop me from being utterly transported by the full sound of down-home goodness Mumford & Sons created. Before their show at Nashville’s War Memorial, I caught their “surprise” appearance at Grimey’s record store. The news of the show leaked one week, and my husband and I were two of the lucky 100+ crowd that had the privilege of an intimate (i.e., crammed shoulder-to-shoulder) performance at The Basement, the literal basement of Grimey’s, a legendary venue in Music City known for its local indie-rock scene and bare-bones atmosphere.

Photo: David BraudThe first time I heard “Little Lion Man” by the bluegrass-rock boys from across the pond, I was hooked. Their impassioned, stomp-the-ground and clap-along music immediately drew me into an imagined village pub, packed with loving but quirky neighbors singing after a long, hard work week, spilling their frothy pints as they were swept away by the joy of banjo and accordion, à la Waking Ned Devine.

Mumford & Sons bring to life what America seems to long for when we give ourselves over to the nostalgia of the Depression Era. Their poetry and poise bespeak a life of hardship and loss and yet, they haven't lost the hope of redemption — the beauty of suffering, even. There’s a refreshing absence of cynicism in their lyrics that provides a contrast to the dominant American attitude of entitlement, arrogance, and individualism which is often hard to shake off. Our attempts to recapture what we imagine to be our folksy roots — the current trending of urban organic gardens, commitment to local farmers’ markets, and the (regretful) resurgence of the mustache — needed a new soundtrack. Thus, we hear Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More as free-range music at its finest. The four-part harmonies, suspenders, Prohibition hair-dos, and the soulful, throaty voice of Marcus Mumford awake our weary souls.

Photo: David BraudIt’s not just the fact that they play such rousing melodies or that the lyrics are awash with literary allusions. It’s the utter simplicity and wisdom of their message that makes me play their album on repeat and gladly do the laundry: life is dirty and hard, but we can persevere with integrity, humility, and community. Remember who you are, they seem to be saying.

“Awake My Soul,” a song influenced by a classic hymn, is a call to remember the bigger picture, to know that the metanarrative in which we live has meaning and yet the small, daily choices to love and serve others have meaning, too.

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

Awake my soul, awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker 

During “White Blank Page,” staring intently into the crowd, Marcus Mumford belted out, “Can you lie next to her and confess your lo-ve, your lo-ve, as well as your folly?” His eyes pierced through the mesh of people and I wondered whom he was looking at. It made me uncomfortable, but in a good, intimate way. “And can you kneel before the king, and say I’m clean, I’m clean?” he continued, exposing something raw inside of me. He seemed to be asking each one of us directly if we are living in true community, one where we confess our weaknesses and our doubts. We are so easily tempted to hide our true selves, yet we live with guilt and burdens and a need for healing. Our individualism and arrogance hold us back from the true intimacy we desire.

Closing one’s eyes seems like the common practice of lead singers crooning out their deepest longings, but not Mumford. He wants you to hear his words; he wrote them for a reason. His voice comes up from his toes. Finishing “White Blank Page,” Mumford’s face turned red and he belted out, "Lead me to truth and I will follow you with my whole life." It seemed that if they didn't have to be somewhere else, they'd have repeated that line as long as you would listen, each time with more conviction than the last.

Photo: David BraudI need a reason to stomp and clap. These post-recession economy days are rough. Tea Party rallies stress me out. But Mumford & Sons give me a reason to move forward. There’s an irony in being directed back to our roots by four young Brits, but I'm ready to follow them, pint in hand, into a country jig that builds into a frenzy of wiggling and stomping. I might even start to do-si-do.

Sarah Braud is a writer, teacher, wife of a handsomely bald man, and mother of two budding terrorists living in Franklin, Tennessee. She achieved her Bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in foreign language education/TESOL and is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can find more of her writing on her blog, Sarah’s Juniper Tree.

David Braud is an artist living and working in Franklin, Tennessee with his lovely wife and two young children. David has a degree in art education from the University of Georgia and his Master's in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary, which qualifies him to serve communion to his art students. His work includes fine art photography, commercial photography, technical writing, graphic design, and feeding his four chickens — Christy Brinkley, Tallulah, Black Jack, and Audrey. You can view more of David’s photography at

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