The Mammals in Concert
These youthful Mammals, Ruth Ungar (fiddle, uke, and vocals), Michael Merenda (guitar, banjo, uke, ronrocco, vocals), Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (guitars, banjo, bodhran, vocals), Pierce Woodward (bass), and Chris Merenda (drums) skillfully perform with free-wheeling joy, fire, and political commitment.
Scott Alarik of the Boston Globe hails them as "young neo-traditionalists who are shaking up the folk world with their volcanic energy, sweetened by a sublime sense of space, smart wit, and warm-hearted populism." They are "gleefully aware that the sound barriers separating old-timey music, vintage pop, and contemporary folk are as permeable as cotton." At the 2003 Newport Folk Festival, their wild-skirling instrumentals were credited with drawing the sun to shine through a raging downpour. Their two CDs, Evolver and Rock that Babe, show a healthy diversity and embody their motto: Trad is rad.
Mischief and exploration impel this string band, but their roots--and respect for history--show clearly. They've been seeped in tradition and come by it naturally. Ruth Ungar's parents are Jay Ungar and stepmother Molly Mason (of "Ashokan Farewell"/Civil War fame) and mother Lyn Hardy (of the Rude Girls). Tao Rodriguez has toured with his grandfather, Pete Seeger ever since Tao moved from Nicaragua to the States at age 16. Michael Merenda got his chops in rock and ska, but seems fully at home with Celtic and mountain music. This band draws inspiration from Appalachian ballads, 1930s Tin Pan tunes, Alan Ginsberg, Richard Thompson, John Hartford, the foibles of the Bush administration, and contemporary grooves; about half the material they perform is of their own composing.
Whatever the mix of influences, genetic and environmental, these Mammals are evolving rapidly: their technical mastery, innate style, and spirit (with fun and social justice in equal measure) will carry their audiences with them.
Tickets are available at Ithaca Guitar Works, Colophon Books (formerly Borealis Bookstore), Greenstar Co-op, Small World Music, and, if any are left, at the door. You may also order tickets online and by mail: SASE to CFSC, PO Box 481, Ithaca, NY 14851.
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