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Taylor Hicks: Daryl’s & The Flying Monkey

©2016 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

June 16, 2016: Daryl’s House Club, Pawling, New York 

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Opening his New England tour last week with stops at Daryl’s House Club in New York and The Flying Monkey Performance Center in New Hampshire, Taylor Hicks, along with Brian Less and special guests Jamie McLean and Joshua Logan, performed two memorable acoustic sets to large, enthusiastic audiences.

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Brian Less

Jamie McLean got the music started with his solo performance, infusing his new music with his well known originals before joining Taylor’s headlining set.  His guitar virtuosity added depth to the headlining set especially on his ‘In The Ghetto’ solo.

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Jamie McLean

What made this show different?  Taylor mixes new songs and covers with his familiar set list but it is his talking and reflecting in between songs on his life since winning Idol that enriches the experience. His story telling centers on the songwriting he has done with some of the best, most prolific and happy songwriters in the industry.

Taylor’s new travel and food show ‘State Plate’ on INSP TV has started filming around the country and with it comes a new and different litany of stories from the road. If you have ideas for an interesting food experience, Taylor said he wants to hear it. You never know. You might be part of the Story Teller Tour.

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Taylor Hicks

June 17, 2016: The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, Plymouth, NH

The Flying Monkey is a little jewel of a theatre in historic Plymouth, New Hampshire. Taylor invited season 5 finalist Josh Logan to open. Josh’s voice is strong and his guitar playing unique. He played original music and covered soul artists, including Justin Timberlake. He said he was so glad to see Taylor, a brother in soul music, win Idol. Being a local favorite encouraged the audience and his performance made him new fans.

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Josh Logan

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Brian Less and Taylor Hicks

The set list came with twists and familiar turns. Songs were added on the fly. Bob Seger’s ‘Main Street’, done acoustically, was a spur of the moment addition. The music ebbed and flowed over the hour and a half Taylor and Brian were on stage with love ballads sung tenderly and road songs sung with vigor.

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The ‘take ’em to church moment’ came at the encore. With Taylor singing and Brian on keyboard, the audience joined en masse to sing the chorus to Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me’. The duo disappeared backstage as the audience walked from their seats humming, ‘we all need somebody to lean on’ all the way to the lobby. Catch a show on the tour that extends through December. By then, the new stories will be interwoven into the music and hopefully someone, somewhere, is writing a song about the road travelled.

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Next up: June 24th in Natick, MA; June 25th in Boothbay Harbor, ME; July 8 in Rutland, VT; July 9 in Old Saybrook, CT.

Taylor Hicks: Mixin’ It Up This Summer

@2016 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

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From New York to New Hampshire, Michigan to Maine, Taylor Hicks will be mixin’ it all up this summer! Between traveling across the country with pianist Brian Less and various musical special guests, filming his new TV show, ‘State Plate’, for INSP TV and dusting off and performing music from his personal vault, Taylor will be bringing his variety of skills to theaters and film sets from shore to shore.

Here is a preview of what’s currently in the mix for Taylor and his fans as he travels in June and July for seven shows on the #StoryTellerTour. And, who knows? You might get a singing chef in a town near you!

For additional info and dates, check out Taylor’s official site Taylorhicks.com

 

Saturday, June 11*: Flat Rock Summer Blast Headliner, Flat Rock, Michigan 9:30 PM

*This is a free concert! Michigan! It’s your turn for a night of soul and country blues.

Flat Rock Summer Blast and River Fest 

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Thursday, June 16*: Daryl’s House Club, Pawling, NY with special guest Jamie McLean Band (Jamie solo at 7 pm; Jamie joins Taylor’s set approximately 8 PM)

Daryl’s House Club *General admission tickets still available at the link.

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Jamie McLean Band

Jamie McLean

©Photo by Louise Uznanski

What a musical treat it will be to see Taylor, Brian and Jamie reunited at Daryl’s House, a venue owned by musical icon Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame.

 

Friday, June 17*: The Flying Monkey Performance Center, Plymouth, NH, with opener Josh Logan (from The Voice) 7 PM

The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center *Tickets still available at the link.

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Opening for Taylor will be a star from season 5 of NBC’s’The Voice’,  Josh Logan.

 

Friday, June 24*: Center for the Arts, Natick, MA. with alt-country recording artist Sarah Borges opening at 7 PM.

Center for the Arts Natick *Orchestra tickets still available at the link.

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Sarah Borges

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Perhaps the fans will be treated to a duet with Sarah joining Taylor onstage. Her alternate rock and country vibe might blend well with the jazzy/blues renderings from the soul man.

 

Saturday, June 25*: The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, Maine 7 PM

To date there is no opener listed for this show.

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor * General admission tickets available at the link.

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How long has it been since Taylor traveled  to the shores of Maine for a night of music followed by the treats of Maine? Lobster, anyone?

Friday, July 8: Taylor Hicks at Downtown Rutland, Rutland, VT. 8:30 pm 

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Taylor will be performing at this outdoor, free, concert in conjunction with the ‘Downtown in Rutland’ concert series.

Saturday, July 9*: The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook, CT 8 PM

The Kate * Tickets still available at the link

 

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The beautiful performing arts center named after local movie star and theater icon Katharine Hepburn will be a perfect setting for an intimate night of music.

That’s a wrap for June and July on the Taylor Hicks #StoryTellerTour. Time to get out and mix it up on the road with Taylor this summer!

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Brian Less Photo ©Louise Uznanski

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Taylor Hicks: Story Teller Tour Pt.2

Photos and audio recordings by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2016 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

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Please enjoy a look back at Taylor Hicks’ and Brian Less’ four night acoustic tour of the East that began on April 21st in Connecticut and ended April 24th in Pennsylvania.

From the Fairfield Theatre where Jamie McLean opened and then joined Taylor on guitar for the headlining show, to the vintage, renovated Queen Theatre at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Delaware, to the sold out Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland and then finally to the New Hope City Winery in Pennsylvania, Taylor and Brian managed to make more music from their two man band than many could with a full band.

Following are a few photo and audio highlights of Taylor’s acoustic Eastern tour.

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Audio: What’s Right Is Right/Tupelo Honey-Avalon Theatre, 4/23/16

Smooth, cool vocals, a little harp and Van’s Tupelo Honey tag.

Audio: Six Strings Are Hard On Diamond Rings-Avalon Theatre, 4/23/16

The best ballad for Taylor to date. Perfect anthem for a traveling soul man.

Taylor Hicks: Story Teller Tour

Audio and photos by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2016 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

 

And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon…

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Taylor Hicks returned to the Northeast last Thursday for four acoustic concerts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  In each intimate venue, the two man band wrapped their stories into the music making the stage feel more like a living room than a concert hall.

The music and the story telling was all on Taylor and his keyboardist and musical director, Brian Less. The stories from before and after Taylor’s win on American Idol were humorously interlaced with tales from his life as an entertainer, writer and actor since his Idol win.

Taylor was first introduced to the TV viewing public singing Elton John’s ‘Levon’. Ten years later, Taylor still entertains through his songs saying “the vault is filled with music”. Letting the stories and music out one performance at a time guarantees that his story is to be continued…

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Please enjoy a recorded version of ‘Levon’ from Taylor’s April 22nd performance at World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware.

 

Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman Charm Infinity Hall Crowd

by Holley Dey with photography by Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski ©2015 On Tap Blog All rights reserved.

g&g from Richard 1From the back of the merchandise line it was clear that nearly all of the audience had decided to join the queue.  As I watched the line slowly advance and then reverse direction, I realized that the Infinity Hall crowd now had their hands full…..full of music.  When the time came to reach for my own wallet, copies of Gary’s newest CD were long gone, long gone.  Instead, I purchased an older live recording that features several of the Hall of Fame songwriter’s #1 songs as well as a 2008 album that includes many of Georgia’s early hits. It was an incidental but very satisfying purchase when I later compared the recorded vocals to that evening’s live performance.

Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman came from Nashville to New York and then to Norfolk last month to perform for an audience that laughed easily, smiled broadly and enjoyed greatly. The music was drawn from the couple’s catalog of songwriting hits, from their own recorded music and from yet unreleased songs to be included on an upcoming duo album, the husband and wife’s first together. The show was patterned after the famed singer-songwriter sessions at the Bluebird Cafe where each songwriter in turn performs one of his/her hits, supported by instrumental and vocal back-up from the other.

Each song was introduced with a tale of inspiration, with behind-the-scene details from the Nashville music scene or….with a story of what could only be divine providence (or sheer dumb luck).  Take Gary’s history with Garth Brooks, for example.  Original song “What Mattered Most” was written for the country superstar.  “He hated it,” explained Gary curtly, “didn’t record it.”  (Ty Herndon later took the poignant love song to #1 on the country music charts.)  Happily, fate intervened.  In studio to record a Bob Seger song, Garth was forced to switch gears when the details of that song failed to arrive via FAX. “Might as well record that song I’ve been hearing around the studio this week.”  Done. That’s Gary Burr for you; he’s lucky (and talented) like that.

Georgia’s eyes misted as she described her late father’s favorite song, “While He Still Knows Who I Am.”  A tender story of memory loss and reconnection, the Dave Berg-Tom Douglas-Georgia Middleman co-write went unrecorded for eight years until Kenny Chesney made an emotional connection to the lyrics.  It was the last song Georgia’s father requested, and the first song recorded for Chesney’s 2012 album release.

The Infinity Hall audience had no trouble connecting to the songwriters’ performance.  There was an enthusiastic back-and-forth between those on stage and the many more in the audience.  Laughter and good-natured teasing were exchanged; several song requests were accepted and performed.  It was like an evening with your closest friends, if only your friends had both talent and your rapt attention!

Among the joys of this acoustic-based singer-songwriter performance was the opportunity to hear that talent unfiltered.  Compared to recordings that are now several years old, the tone and clarity of the vocals have not changed.  Gary’s voice has a richer quality; maybe it’s maturity.  Well then again, maybe not.  That cheeky humor hasn’t changed either!

Nor has the quality of the duo’s songwriting wavered.  At Infinity Hall the audience was treated to a preview of new songs intended for the couple’s debut album.  “You Roll By” and “This Song” share the same well crafted melodies and lyrics as previous works, but marry Gary and Georgia’s voices in a warm and welcome harmony.

Here’s hoping the songwriters will return those harmonies from Nashville to New York, to Norfolk and beyond when the new album is released.  Might consider taking the show to Naperville, Newton, Norman or New Orleans….or go crazy!  That’s right.  Pick another letter.

 

 

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OnTap Photo Focus: Flashback Friday:: Taylor Hicks at The Genesee Theatre

Photography: ©Louise Uznanski

©2015 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

Please enjoy these photos of Taylor Hicks’ opening stint for BoDeans at the Genesee Theatre on December 28th and join with us in looking forward to all that is new for Taylor and his fans in 2015.

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BoDeans and Taylor Hicks Prove Fan Favorites at Genesee Theatre: Part 2

Review and Photography by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2015 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

BoDeans entered the Genesee Theatre stage on Sunday warmly greeted by an enthusiastic audience already on their feet before the first note was played. Their headlining set on a double bill that included a well-received opening set by American Idol, Taylor Hicks, would be one of the rock band’s last stops on their current tour.

 

The typed setlist for the night’s performance was found lying by the Genesee Theatre’s soundboard operator as he awaited the start of the show. The list was drawn primarily from the band’s eleven previously released albums (BoDeans Discography) and consisted of songs that have become classic rock anthems for BoDeans’ fans since their emergence onto the music scene in the early 80’s.

Before the opening number, Kurt Neumann, the lead singer and one of the band’s founders, told the audience how thankful the band is for their fans continued loyalty to their music after over thirty years of touring. He added that their story began like so many other American rock bands had, when, as kids, they started creating their sound in the basements and garages of rural Wisconsin. Now, over thirty years later, the band and their fans are still together and still rocking.

BoDeans song lyrics are filled with the dreams and hopes culled from the American experience. Performing songs with titles such as ‘Dreams’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Texas Road Song’, ‘All the World’, ‘Angels’, ‘American’, ‘Good Work’, and their most well known, ‘Good Things’ and ‘Closer To Free’, the BoDeans have maintained a foothold in classic American roots rock music long after their 1983 critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams‘ was released. During Sunday’s performance, the band offered these themes in a continuous stream, switching from one classic to another, seemingly without taking a breath. ‘I Can’t Stop/Slave’, a song from their upcoming album ‘I Can’t Stop‘, served as a preview of what’s new for BoDeans ahead of the album’s April, 2015 release.

Kurt Neumann, lead vocalist and electric guitarist, co-founded BoDeans with Sam Llanas. Llanas left the band right after the release of ‘Indigo Dreams‘ in 2011, leaving Kurt with a difficult choice to make. Deciding not to disband, Neumann regrouped and pledged to write new, energetic rock/pop music for the band’s ‘rebirth’. 2012’s ‘American Made‘ is an homage to Neumann’s passion and determination to continue on as a band. Their musical performances after the release of ‘American Made‘ are classic BoDeans with some twists back to roots rock and a forward-thinking infusion of pop.

Joining Neumann on the Genesee stage were long-time friends Sam Hawksley on guitar and back-up vocals, Kenny Aronoff on drums, Zak Sparks on bass, Dave Duffy on violin and Stefano Intalesano on keys and accordion. The defining aspect of a BoDeans performance is the skilled musicianship. The transitions from band play to solos and back again are seamless. And, despite changing band members and musical directions over the years, the band has made it their trademark to always be on the same page when it comes to the music.

For their commitment to keeping their sound alive in each performance, BoDeans is rewarded by a loyal audience who becomes a sea of back-up singers, singing the words to the band with vigor and conviction. As if transported back to the time when the audience had dreams of starting a great American band in their parent’s garage, Sunday night with BoDeans at the Genesee Theatre made that dream feel real, if only for the few minutes they were on their feet singing the words to ‘Closer to Free’.

The following photo gallery contains some of the images captured at BoDeans December 28th performance at the Genesee Theatre.

Lead vocalist Kurt Neumann

Lead vocalist Kurt Neumann

BoDeans, Genesee Theatre

BoDeans, Genesee Theatre

Keyboardist Stefano Intalesano, Drummer Kenny Aronoff, Guitarist Sam Hawksley

Keyboardist Stefano Intalesano, Drummer Kenny Aronoff, Guitarist Sam Hawksley

Guitarist Sam Hawksley

Guitarist Sam Hawksley

Lead vocalist Kurt Neumann

Lead vocalist Kurt Neumann

Violinist Dave Duffy, Guitarist Kurt Neumann

Violinist Dave Duffy, Guitarist Kurt Neumann

Bass Guitarist Zak Sparks

Bass Guitarist Zak Sparks

Violinist Dave Duffy

Violinist Dave Duffy

L: Kurt Neumann, Zak Sparks, Dave Duffy

L: Kurt Neumann, Zak Sparks, Dave Duffy

Kurt Neumann, Dave Duffy

Kurt Neumann, Dave Duffy

Genesee Theatre Marquee

Genesee Theatre Marquee

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BoDeans Setlist

BoDeans Setlist

BoDeans featuring accordionist Stefano Intalesano

BoDeans featuring accordionist Stefano Intalesano

BoDeans Official Website

Link to Part 1 featuring Taylor Hicks opening set.

BoDeans and Taylor Hicks Prove Fan Favorites at Genesee Theatre: Part 1

Review contributed by Louise Uznanski and Holley Dey. Photography by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog.

©2014 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

Seemed an odd pairing when the show was announced, but on Sunday night at Genesee Theatre the performance bill suddenly made good sense and more importantly, made for good music.

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks opened the show. Perhaps best known for debut single “Do I Make You Proud,” Taylor’s post Idol career has also included lengthy and successful Broadway and Las Vegas runs. Now several years away from his 2006 reality show triumph, Hicks continues to work steadily with an album of new “country soul” music anticipated in 2015.

Legendary rock band the BoDeans headlined the Sunday evening show in Waukegan. The “Closer to Free” hitmakers continue to tour the country nearly thirty years after their smash debut, playing to devoted audiences who know and readily sing back the words. From roots to alternative to mainstream rock and back again, the BoDeans and their music have conquered the test of time. The band’s appropriately named twelfth album, I Can’t Stop, is targeted for a spring 2015 release.

Both Hicks and the Bodeans claim a foundation in American roots music and a sound that represents the fusion of rock, country, soul and blues influences. While the relative contribution of those influences differ between the artists, both careers reflect a dedication to craft that has found the ultimate reward – staying power.

On Sunday the audience stayed as well, and appeared to thoroughly enjoy both music sets. Hicks offered a mix of tunes and a mix of genres from his own catalog and his American Idol run, as well as a few select covers. The audience responded most strongly to a performance of “Nineteen”, the story of a young football player and fallen soldier that Hicks earnestly dedicated to first responders, police and firemen. An emotional, soul-filled rendition of the song prompted an equally heartfelt standing ovation.

Some may have remembered Taylor’s televised performance of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto”. Sunday night the audience was treated to the Simon Cowell backstory that led to the song’s selection, and to a jazzier, updated version of the song. Other standouts from the set included a clap-along performance of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together”, the mid tempo opener “Country Living”, and roadhouse rocker “Seven Mile Breakdown” that featured a silky smooth solo from in-demand Nashville guitarist Guthrie Trapp.

He sang with soul and played his trademark harmonica, but Hicks also showed his skill at the organ, on guitar and tambourine, surprising many. At intermission the audience poured into the lobby where “so unexpected”, “such a good voice” and “he can play that harp” were among the comments overheard. The Idol winner and band proved a fine complement to the strong musicianship of the Bodeans.

A gallery of photos from the opening set is found below. Review and photographs of the Bodeans’ headlining performance in Waukegan, Illinois will follow shortly.

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Guitarist Guthrie Trapp

Guitarist Guthrie Trapp

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Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks Photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks Photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

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Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks and Band photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks and Band photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Guthrie Trapp and Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Guthrie Trapp and Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Coming up next! Part 2, The BoDeans! 

Link to Part 2 featuring headliner BoDeans.

OnTapBlog on Tour:: The Mulligan Brothers Come Full Circle with ‘Via Portland’

 

By Louise Uznanski for Ontapblog. Photography by Richard Uznanski and Louise Uznanski ©2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Gram Rea

Gram Rea

Ross Newell

Ross Newell

Greg DeLuca

Greg DeLuca

Ben Leininger

Ben Leininger

 

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.
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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!”

Greg DeLuca ©LU

Greg DeLuca

Ross Newell ©LU

Ross Newell

Gram Rea

Gram Rea

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.

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‘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’.

Gram Rea ©LU

Gram Rea

Ross Newell

Ross Newell

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‘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

The Mulligan Brothers Plan December Release for Sophomore Album

Gram Rea

Gram Rea

by Holley Dey ©2014 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

Gram was standing outside as we talked, cell phone pressed to his ear. “Hold on a minute,” he said abruptly.  An air horn announced the imminent arrival of a train that would rumble loudly through Guthrie, Oklahoma, then fade quickly and quietly into the distance.  Like the train, The Mulligan Brothers made a powerful statement in Guthrie, but would soon be on their way, headed down the highway, intent on their southern home and the end of a five week stint on the road.

On their first trip to Oklahoma the band had drawn a small crowd of about twenty-five to their eclectic mix of folk/Americana/acoustic rock music. Fans packed the venue on The Brothers’ return, and now a larger venue and second show were added to September’s busy tour schedule. Good news, but a road-weary rasp in Gram’s voice prompted concern. Would the dual stresses of touring and talking compromise that evening’s performance? “Nah, that’s alright” he laughed, “I’m always hoarse.”

His patience and work ethic seem typical of the band as a whole. When The Mulligan Brothers put together their “second chance” band in early 2013, it was with the mutual understanding that the music came first. All four agreed that “we wanted to play our original music and make a career out of it without selling (our) souls.” The band was willing to take a risk by playing their original music and slowly, methodically building a fan base, knowing that money would be tight and fame an unlikely bedfellow.

There must have been an incredible sense of awe, a deep sigh of relief, a deep-throated chuckle at the irony of their early results. The Mulligan Brothers’ eponymous debut was named “Alabama Album of 2013” by the Mod Mobilian. The band was invited to play an hour long set at the New Orleans Jazz Fest where that very same album was one of the event’s top ten sellers. The Brothers have since visited the Middle East and Africa to entertain U.S. troops, performed at Fenway Park, and attracted the interest of well known producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos)  for their sophomore record.

To what does the band attribute their near immediate success?  Fiddler Gram Rea explains, “I really think it’s hard work and communication.  We constantly regroup and ask how can we make it better.”  Everyone contributes; lead singer and guitarist Ross Newell is a prolific songwriter and works continuously on new songs.  Drummer Greg DeLuca can also play guitar; he sings harmony and handles all of the band’s social media.  Gram adds mandolin, harmonica and viola, as well as his voice to the mix.  His fiddle keeps feet moving.  His business skills keep the finances in line.  Bass player and harmony vocalist Ben Leininger also drives the tour bus.  Once a public transport shuttle, that bus has been stripped and refitted with bunk beds, flat screen TV, stocked refrigerator and four southern gentlemen, four brothers by choice.

Ben and Greg grew up together in Mobile, Alabama.  The pair were friends at school and have played music together since childhood.  Before The Brothers became a band, Ben and Greg were “The Free Agents”, an independent rhythm section available for hire.  Occasionally the Agents played as a trio with guitarist/vocalist Ross Newell.  On other nights, Ross played acoustic sets with Gram Rea who had recently moved to nearby Mississippi and often gigged in local clubs.  When The Free Agents joined the duo for a set of music it “was magical from the moment it started,” says Gram.

“We all had the same musical goal,” explains Rea. “We all loved Levon Helms, The Band, acoustic music from Bob Dylan.” There was an immediate chemistry on and off the stage leading the four to commit to a new project, one that would leverage their combined experience to build on the successes and avoid the failures of their previous bands. “Like a mulligan in golf,” says Gram, “a do-over, this was our second chance band.”

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Photos: @2014 The Mulligan Brothers

The band rehearses every Tuesday afternoon when The Mulligan Brothers rent a studio in Mobile for four hours. Every week they work on the songs – the melodies, the lyrics, the harmonies, a rare cover. “Lots of bands don’t do that,” says Gram, “they get lazy. I’ve been guilty of that – one of the lessons learned.” Many bands “get complacent”, content to book and rebook shows at the same venues. The Brothers are willing to gamble that their music will recruit fans in new markets. They are willing to lose money the first time through town to pack the house on their return. There has been more than one Guthrie, Oklahoma.

“We’re very blessed,” confirms Gram, that the band’s following continues to grow. Los Lobos member and respected producer Steve Berlin is among the fans who were impressed by the debut album. After hearing the music, Berlin made a quick call to the band’s manager to say “I want to produce their next album.” And he has.

The Mulligan Brothers’ sophomore album is planned for an early December 2014 release. The music was recently tracked in Portland, Oregon in the same studio used by indie rock band Modest Mouse. Berlin played an active role in studio through his clear vision for each song and his keen attention to detail. Not the right snare drum, try another; might need a nylon pick rather than plastic – the producer insisted on the best, the right sounds for every track. The music is now ready to be mixed; the artwork is in progress.

There are currently eleven tracks slated for the new, yet untitled acoustic album. Eleven original songs were written primarily by Ross Newell, but feature co-writes by other band members including Rea. A few of the songs may already be familiar to fans. Let Them Ring, a song about life on the road, and Bad Idea have been played at recent live shows. All four band members contribute vocals to the mix; on Bad Idea those harmonies build line by line to the end. The band’s instrumental skills shine; Gram alone plays fiddle, harmonica, mandolin and viola on the album. Producer Steve Berlin adds a few tasteful piano pieces.

“We’re doing honest music,” says Gram, “These are true and honest stories about real life experiences…honest music from the heart.” As with their first effort, the band has tried to stay way from “formulas set forth on the radio.” Confirms Rea, “We want to play our music even if it doesn’t mean a major deal. We just want a solid career that we can sustain for many, many years and a following that appreciates the music. It’s really about the music at the end of the day.” He admits that it’s a little scary to release a second album when the first was so well received, but “We’re very excited. There are some really great songs – you’re just going to have to wait and see!”

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