ROCK THAT BABE (Signature Sounds) The Mammals
Passion, politics, and pedigree. This fantastic high-octane old time trio has all that and more in spades, and they throw down a badass jam.
Tao Rodriguez-Seeger is the grandson of Pete Seeger, and a fine guitarist and clawhammer banjo player. (Like millions of others, I first learned to play that style from his grandfather's classic book, still in print after fifty years!) Tao was raised in Nicaragua, and sings a superb version of the Cuban classic "Chan Chan" on this record, which I like as well as the Buena Vista Social Club version, and that's saying an awful lot the banjo and fiddle sound fantastic on it, wow. He is the group's guitarist, but also plays longneck banjo, acoustic 12 string, electric 12 string, and mandolin on this record.
Ruth Ungar is the daughter of folksinger/luthier Lyn Hardy and fiddle legend Jay Ungar (who along the way became a Grammy Award winning composer for "Ashokan Farewell," the beautiful theme to Ken Burns' Civil War series for PBS). Jay's partner and Ruth's stepmom is Molly Mason, a fine guitarist and singer. (Check out Jay and Molly's video of "Relax Your Mind," the title song of their new record--it rocks!) What I'm saying is, this band comes by a love of traditional music from deep and thick roots. I love Ruth's voice on this disc, and she plays fiddle, resophonic ukukele, acoustic guitar, electric ukulele, and soprano ukulele.
Michael Merenda rounds the trio out, and is described as an art/pop songwriter. He plays most of the great banjo on this record, we are led to believe. He also plays electric guitar, Pollman banjo, soprano ukulele, resophonic ukulele, percussion, and baritone ukulele. His political number, "The Bush Boys," is one of the high points of the record (and I'm not usually interested in political songs) and a much requested song in their live performances. We include that song in our clips, along with the Cuban track and Ruth's composition "Tinderbox," a wonderful tune that makes me wish there were a couple more slow ones on the disc. But wanting more is a good thing.
The rhythm section of Ken Maiuri and Pierce Woodward on bass and drums hardly stops there. They both track glockenspiel, and Ken also plays Wurlitzer and B-3, and sings. There's a powerful instrumental and vocal blend afoot in this trio (sometimes quintet) and producer Max Feldman captures it in inimitable form. His credits with Effanel Music are deep (including engineering U2), and his freelance efforts include Merenda's new record, Election Day, just out.