The Mammals – Sunshiner
Humble Abode Music – 1 May 2018 (UK Release Date)
Having taken time off to make their own The Mike + Ruthy Band album, singers Mike Meranda and fiddler Ruth Ungar have reunited with the rest of the band, Konrad Meissner (drums), Jacob Silver (bass), Ken Maluri (12-string) and Charlie Rose (pedal steel), for a reinvigorated collection of jangly folk rock, their first in twelve years. And jangle it most certainly does on the glorious upbeat summery opener Make It True with its dripping harmonies, fiddle and steady beat.
They get a little rockier with the bass and drum driven Open The Door, blossoming into another 60s summery number, the lyrics about reaching out and helping those in need because there but for the grace of God. Mike taking lead, Woody Guthrie gets referenced on the harmonica bolstered waltz-time Culture War, a number about the insidious power of television to shape views and attitudes. Accompanying herself on ukulele, Ruth sings the somewhat hippie sensibilities of Beautiful One, a love song to the Earth and an encouragement to those whose souls are “full of holes” to grow stronger. Watch the video premiere below:
Fork In The Road gets back to a fiddle folk rock chug singalong reminder that “one man’s trouble is another’s gold”, that uplifting musical bounce also informing the circling riffs of The Flood, Lilac Breeze’s hymn to the feelgood power of good weather and good music, while, the vocals back in the mix, the brass, fiddle and Majuri on Doug Sahm-like organ rendering the dance floor dosage of Doctor’s Orders more of an instrumental.
In contrast, burnished with sax and trumpet, Maple Leaf is a mid-tempo number sung by Ungar that follows a familiar make the most of your life and go out in a blaze theme, echoed in the penultimate folksy spiritual When My Story Ends, souls becoming part of the universe. Changing musical clothes again, Stayin’ Up Late lazes in breathily sung, smoky jazz cellar piano territory and, sounding like a traditional folk song but is in fact an original eco-protest number, My Baby Drinks Water spotlights Ungar’s vocals, accompanied only by sparse Arco bass and Jay Ungar on violin with Lyn Hardy providing harmonies.
Softly crooned by Merenda with backing from Sarah Jarosz and Connor Kennedy, the dreamy title track is another with its mind set on environmental issues, taking a solar energy tack as he sings “my Daddy was a miner but I’m gonna be a sunshiner” going geo-thermal carbon neutral with a generator out back.
It ends with the epic ten-minute Big Ideas, a slow rolling, bluesy groove underpinned by a slow march drum beat, keyboards and bass with Rose providing pedal steel flourishes, as they gently whisper “may we never say goodbye to all our big ideas” before taking on cosmic psychedelia colours for the three-minute instrumental play-out.
The album certainly lives up to Ruth Ungar’s promise that it makes you “think, dance, feel”… To misquote from Hair, let the Sunshiner in and radiate in the glow.
Order it via Bandcamp https://themammals.bandcamp.com/
The Mammals Tour Dates
5/3 Chicago, IL Bourbon on Division with Seth Bernard & Mark Lavengood
5/4 Ann Arbor, MI The Ark with Seth Bernard
5/5 Boyne City, MI Freshwater
5/18 Burlington, VT Higher Ground
5/19 Woodstock, NY Colony
THE MAMMALS’ SUMMER TOUR DATES:
6/1 Earlville, NY Earlville Opera House
6/2 Aurora, NY Morgan Opera House
6/16-17 Croton-on-Hudson, NY Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival
6/25-30 Port Townsend, WA Voice Works – a workshop for singers (duo)
7/7-8 New Bedford, MA New Bedford Folk Festival
7/10 New Paltz, NY Mohonk Mountain House
7/12 Middlebury, VT Middlebury Festival On The Green
7/13 Saratoga Springs, NY Caffe Lena
7/14 Greenfield, MA Green River Festival
8/6-9 Alta, WY Targhee Music Camp (duo)
8/10-11 Alta, WY Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
8/24-26 Olivebridge, NY Summer Hoot
9/14-15 North Adams, MA FreshGrass Festival