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New England act, The Mammals are all accomplished musicians, and have good pedigree. One of which is a project featuring four members; The Mike + Ruthy Band. I well recall a superb performance two years ago at Gateshead’s (Sage) SummerTyne Festival, and like with their album Bright As You Can the band hit the spot.
The Mammals perform folk of a wide nature, The Mammals after their sabbatical are back, and on their new album, Sunshiner they capture the energy of the band’s famed stage work. Up till now I feel they have crept under the radar far too often (and in too many places), for good though they are I felt there wasn’t anything to set them apart from the wealth of bands like them. Those in their area alone it seems to be over loaded with excellent players, and lead vocalists. In Sunshiner they might have the recording to elevate their popularity. With Mike Merenda vocals, banjo, guitars, SK5, Ruth Ungar vocals, fiddle, guitar, ukelele, Konrad Meissner (drums, percussion), Jacob Silver (bass), Ken Maiuri (piano, guitar, 12-string guitar) plus Charlie Rose (banjo, pedal steel on two tracks), and contributions from Molly Mason, Jay Ungar, Brian Graham, Phil Rodriguez etc the record is a hot one. It is at times a most busy, energetic sound but the band don’t forget the artistic side, and how! The sheer beauty of “Stayin’ Up Late” warrants additional plays every time you play the record, Ungar escorted by piano sings like an angel (Carole King, Carly Simon eat your heart out. Her poise is sublime). The Mammals throw up a few surprises and a bunch more highlights during the course of the 14-tracks, and with the quick tempo of “Lilac Breeze” suggesting a Cajun feel, and in the likes of “Culture War” and rambunctious “Fork In The Road” (albeit I feel the vocal arrangement is on this occasion lacking) and the dramatic left-field pop folk “The Flood” it has a couple of excellent stable mates.
Tender, a cappella ballad “My Baby Drinks Water” is welcome, and with it backed by the likes of simple breezy ode “When My Story Ends” you have a strong end to the record.
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