3.12.18 READ The Bluegrass Situation "Sunshiner" Video PREMIERE
Read the premiere feature here.
"Some of the best, most inspirational musicians I know just released this gem." - Lukas Graham
"My Baby Drinks Water is the best new folk song I've heard in years."- Unreal Bluegrass
"Begin learning about The Mammals and Mike + Ruthy: the present and future of the American folk music tradition is vital and vested in them." - Unreal Bluegrass
In an era of disconnect, The Mammals work to re-connect thru their truth-telling lyrics, off-the-cuff storytelling and euphoric instrumentals. Their dynamic shows regularly bring a tear to the eye and hope to the hearts of listeners of all generations.
THE MAMMALS: Americana Quintet From Woodstock, New York (BIO)
Every time The Mammals take the stage there is something real at stake. Maybe it’s the risk-hungry spirit that the band’s songwriters Mike Merenda & Ruth Ungar adopted thru their youthful theater training, or maybe it’s that fiercely authentic, music-as-mission mindset learned from their elders. This folk music is not about suspenders and whiskey, although those are both beautiful things. The Mammals come to change the world, to connect timid generations, heal sore hearts, and enchant tired minds, one soulful, joyful show at a time.
Unless you’re one of those people who prefers politics and entertainment served separately, The Mammals’ holistic approach to life and music is refreshing. Their songs and stage banter are 100% down to earth, they tour as a family, and they produce a community music festival near their home in Woodstock, NY twice a year called The Hoot. The day after he sang at the first annual Summer Hoot in 2013, Pete Seeger wrote them a friendly postcard saying, "Dear Mike + Ruthy — Your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I've seen in all my 94 years.” The local Hudson Valley community agrees as well, with “hootsters” of all ages making the Winter and Summer Hoot part of their family tradition.
The Mammals audience tends to be three-fold: there are those who remember the 1960’s folk revival and delight in the band for carrying the torch, the subsequent generation who moshed to the 2004 iteration of The Mammals which included founding Mammal Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, and a new generation of inspired, active, Americana music lovers who swooned to Mike + Ruthy thru the last decade and now eagerly witness a new fire and grit emerging from their favorite songwriters.
In the band’s first incarnation The Mammals enjoyed a remarkable 7-year run, playing the largest folk festivals across North America (Telluride Bluegrass, Vancouver Folk Fest, High Sierra), Australia (Woodford, Port Fairy, National) and Denmark (Tonder), Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium (with stringband peers Nickel Creek), New York’s Carnegie Hall as the special guest of folk legend Arlo Guthrie, and the 2002 Winter Olympics with Pete Seeger. They landed in the pages of numerous publications lauding their unique “traditional-music-in-combat-boots” including a feature in The New York Times handpicking them as a leader in a pack of new-wave stringbands “updating that old-time sound.” The Washington Post described them as “gleefully aware that the sound barriers separating old-timey music, vintage pop and contemporary folk are as permeable as cotton.”
As mentioned, the two continuing band-founders are Ruth Ungar (a second generation fiddler/singer and daughter of GRAMMY winning composer, Jay Ungar) and Mike Merenda (a multi-instrumental wordsmith regarded as “one of the best songwriters of his generation” -LA weekly). During The Mammals’ nine-year hiatus, in addition to producing the Winter and Summer Hoots, these two kept busy touring with their two young children and recording five Mike + Ruthy albums including The NYC EP (2012) featuring a much celebrated posthumous collaboration with Woody Guthrie called “My New York City” and Bright As You Can (2015) which the Boston Globe hailed as one of the standout Americana records of the year. “Besides Ruth Ungar's amazing voice, the lyrics on this album are incredibly thoughtful — they're carefully crafted, without a word or phrase out of place. From rollicking good times to more tender reflections, Bright As You Can is a winner,” praised NPR Music.
In the process of writing and recording their new album Sunshiner at their studio outside of Woodstock, NY a renewed “mammalian” energy began to take hold and the rebirth of the band became official.
On drums, bass, pedal steel and organ they’ve welcomed back long-time friends and collaborators Konrad Meissner, Jacob Silver, Charlie Rose and Ken Maiuri (some from the early Mammals days) and the sound is as rollicking and rootsy as ever. The touring lineup sometimes features other members as well.
Why is this new, full-band energy unleashing itself right now? “November 2016 was a turning point that made us all draw a slow breath,” says Ungar. “Overnight our earlier political-edged songs became relevant again. We felt compelled to reclaim the old mission of The Mammals and mix a bit more politics and hoedown into our live shows.”
Whatever political twists and turns may occur this year, 2018 promises to be an adventurous time for The Mammals. They’re striking out on a Western Migration Tour across the USA from their home in Woodstock, NY and down the entire West Coast from Bellingham to San Diego, then embarking on a Sunshiner CD Release Tour thru Northeast and Midwest. In the summer they’ll be playing some of their favorite folk festivals including Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival, Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, FreshGrass, and their own Summer Hoot.
The Mammals treasure the timeless traditions of song, story-telling and dance. Their work is to continue a musical odyssey so the same handmade music passed down to them makes it through to future generations.
Americana trailblazers, The Mammals, bring indie grit, earthy soul, and boldly political stringband fervor to their re-emergent new album and US tour in 2018. Sunshiner features 14 original songs and comes out April 20 on their own label, Humble Abode Music. In an era of human disconnect, The Mammals are awakening new listeners to authentic, handmade, roots music and reconnecting generations through their truth-telling lyrics, euphoric instrumentals, and message of hope.
Sunshiner bottles The Mammals’ on-stage effervescence and lyrical prowess along with some beautiful studio magic. The album bursts open with the soaring, up-tempo “Make It True.” There’s a palpable hope on this track, written by the band’s banjo/guitar wordsmith Mike Merenda. It’s sung as a duet with ddler/vocalist Ruth Ungar and features the driving energy of Konrad Meissner on drums, Jacob Silver on bass, Ken Maiuri
on 12-string and the soaring pedal steel of Charlie Rose. Their harmonies, harmonica, and jangling guitars hint at The Byrds, Fleet Foxes, and something distinctly “Mammalian.” As the refrain sings, “There’s a better world in store / And we somedays sing the blues / Somedays sing those harmonies too, yeah we do / And we’ll one day sing those words that will make it true.”
Over a decade ago, in The Mammals’ rst incarnation (which featured founding member Tao Rodriguez-Seeger) the Washington Post described them as, “gleefully aware that
the sound barriers separating old-timey music, vintage pop and contemporary folk are as permeable as cotton.” This new record has that same genre bending playfulness on full display, evoking Laura Nyro on Ungar’s intimate, spine-tingling piano number “Stayin’ Up Late” and surrounding the listener with a lush, electric, indie-folk swirl on “The Flood.”
“It’s basically ‘think, dance, feel’” says Ungar of the repertoire on Sunshiner. Songs like “Culture War,” “Beautiful One,” and “My Baby Drinks Water,” spotlight The Mammals’ legacy of speaking their minds with logic and reason. Then they whoop up a ruckus with ddle, banjo, guitar, bass and drums as if to stomp the last shreds of concern into oblivion. And it’s no secret that some of their songs, particularly Ungar’s country blues and jazz-tinged numbers, will make a grown mammal cry. And that’s ok too. It’s all part of working our way through this tricky chapter of human history.
It’s true, The Mammals were always known for their rabble- rousing musical statements which sometimes caused a stir with politically divided audiences from Louisiana to Michigan. “If you tell the whole truth you won’t please everyone,” smiles Mike Merenda whose 2004 Mammals staple “The Bush Boys” made the Dixie Chicks seem downright polite.
The Mammals’ goals are two-fold: raise positive social awareness and have a good party! They will stop at nothing to bring people together to a place of positivity.
During The Mammals “hibernation” period Merenda continued to write dozens of political songs and considered releasing them all together for a project called ’69 Protest Songs.’ “But
a full album of topical lyrics is too much to absorb,” says Mike. “When Pete [Seeger] sang heavy activist anthems he couched each one in a fun setlist that kept the energy shifting and owing. We’ve grown up a bit, and we’re doing our best to carry on that tradition.”
The song “Sunshiner” is a subtle and smile-inducing sing-along with hope for the future. “Yes, my Daddy was a miner / But I’m gonna be a Sunshiner” croons Merenda who penned the song last year even before learning that solar panels are now installed on the roof of the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum. If that’s not hopeful, what is?
The Mammals are hitting the road on two successive US tours Feb-May and are scheduled to appear at several major US folk festivals this summer. Announced so far is the Clearwater Festival in June where they’ll be part of a line-up that includes Ani DiFranco, Jeff Tweedy and Rhiannon Giddens.
READ THE PAPERS.
“A string band at the core, The Mammals augment their sound with drums and electric guitar to create a collectively harmonized howl as thrilling and rocking as any band currently subverting folk traditions” - No Depression
"While rooted in acoustic music and lefty politics, these anti-war rants and personal reveries are updated with harmonic polish and smart, melodic twists that could equally appeal to a fan of Fleetwood Mac or Bonnie Raitt."
Philadelphia Daily News
"The Mammals aren't the first band to mix an indie-rock sensibility with bluegrass sounds, but they're gradually becoming one of the best." - No Depression
"Combining a modern pop sensibility with organic musical honesty, you hear everything from string sections to claw-hammer banjo. The band's ability to unite disparate forms to create fresh amalgamations makes them special among the young bands trying to create "World Music." Although the Mammals' style is musically inclusive, it still remains a personal and articulate edge." - Vintage Guitar
"The Mammals are the finest young bluegrass/old-timey band in the country, the country-branch house band for the new weird America. They perform total energy, off-kilter folk that more resembles the twisted quirk of the Holy Modal Rounders than the clean jeans or alter-ninnies currently clawhammering banjos.
Michael Simmons - LA Weekly
"The Mammals' newest tune, 'Culture War,' gets right to the heart of the fight for the American soul." - No Depression
“Dear Mike + Ruthy, Your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I've seen in all my 94 years. I hope next year I can be there for more than one day.” - Pete Seeger