By Louise Uznanski for Ontapblog. Photography by Richard Uznanski and Louise Uznanski ©2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved.
The road to the Mulligan Brothers December 10th pre-release CD show at the Joe Jefferson Playhouse in Mobile, Alabama, began this past Fall when the tour bus, loaded with instruments and a portfolio full of new songs, took The Mulligan Brothers west from Mobile, Alabama to Portland, Oregon. Here, the work would begin on their sophomore album, ‘Via Portland’, with producer Steve Berlin. Returning to Mobile from Portland once recording was completed, the band made several tour stops and were met with familiar places and faces. But, it was their time in Portland that brought the band to the realization that the journey out west to make new music was not complete until they returned home to Mobile where their hometown friends and family could become part of moving that musical wheel a full 360º.
The Joe Jefferson Playhouse, located in residential Mobile, has stadium seating and every seat has the advantage of great acoustics and light. The capacity crowd was treated to a listening party that was the culmination of months of writing, rehearsing, traveling, and then, finally, recording. The finished product, ‘Via Portland’, is, in the words of songwriter Ross Newell, “a compilation of songs from life, a little sad and sometimes bitter but you have to hear the songs and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.” Ross introduced and described each song and after three or four song introductions, the audience started to sense a theme. The songs are sad, but not really. Some are bitter, but they are happy, too. One member of the audience who had enough loudly suggested to Ross, ‘just sing it, we just want to hear the song!”
Every song was fully realized with the twists and turns in the lyrics the audience has come to expect from Newell’s writing. Sitting near Ross’s mother, she proudly revealed that he has been writing songs since he was two years old when he wrote a song about skinning his knee. The band’s incredible harmonies makes the listener’s ear focus intently to catch every phrase and nuanced word. The instrumentation on the recorded tracks is superb; at a live concert, the listener just wants to hear more of the blend of Gram’s fiddle, Ross’s voice, Greg’s light beat and Ben’s low bass tones. Ross’s mother was right: hearing her son and the band perform their recordings live is so different she sometimes cannot believe it is her son and his friends singing.
After the performance of the entirety of ‘Via Portland’, the audience asked for more with their standing ovation. The band returned to the stage and met to discuss the encore setlist. The songs decided upon were from their freshman effort, ‘The Mulligan Brothers’. In this part of the show, every word came back to the band from the audience who enthusiastically sang along to Lay Here, Oh Susanna and Kaleidoscope. Foot stomping, clapping and whistling ensued. The best part of the show was seeing the joyous smiles on the band members faces throughout the night. Their biggest smiles beamed across the stage from musician to musician, out to the audience and back to the band as they sang old favorites to round out the night.
‘Via Portland’ took many miles and life experiences to come to fruition. Many in the capacity audience had traveled from places all over the country to hear the new music. After the show, the band met with friends, family and the local community. The overall consensus is that once again, The Mulligan Brothers have produced a pure, honest and poetic body of work and the audience felt that as they traveled together on that musical wheel from Mobile to Portland and back to Mobile again, all by way of ‘Via Portland’.
‘Via Portland’ will be released nationally January 20, 2015 and can be pre-ordered here.
To listen to I Don’t Want To Know from ‘Via Portland, please click here.
To listen to ‘The Mulligan Brothers’ first CD in its entirety, please click HERE
©2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved