Mike + Ruthy, touring American folk act and founders of The Mammals are bringing back the band name that energized crowds in the 00’s and gave them their start. “We’ve always been Mammals at heart,” laughs Ruth Ungar, the band’s soulful singer and fiddler. “The music we’re making has the same old-time and Americana roots, and our lyrics have gotten more political again.” It’s true, The Mammals were known for their rabble-rousing musical statements which sometimes caused a stir with politically divided audiences from Louisiana to Michigan. “If you tell the whole truth you won’t please everyone,” smiles Mike Merenda. He’s the songwriter and guitar/banjo player whose 2004 Mammals anthem “The Bush Boys” made the Dixie Chicks seem downright polite.
This time around their goals remain two-fold: raise positive social awareness & have a good party! In their recent tenure as “Mike + Ruthy” they began a home-town festival near Woodstock, NY called The Hoot which exemplifies these ideals. Pete Seeger, who performed at the inaugural Summer Hoot wrote “Dear Mike + Ruthy, your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I’ve seen in all my 94 years.” Perhaps it was the multi-generational celebration, the hand-built wooden stage, or the re-usable pint cups – either way, these musicians take pride in the small details that make a big difference.
“Our lives are about building community and growing together everywhere we go,” says Ungar. In addition to organizing festivals, Mike + Ruthy have spent the past 9 years raising their two young children and recording and touring behind 5 albums that say “Wherever the good energy is, that’s where I wanna raise my kids,” “Some people wanna tell you that you shouldn’t even try / but I wanna tell you that’s a lie,” and “You’ve got to be as bright as you can.”
Back in 2001, The Mammals originated as a partnership between Ungar, Merenda and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete’s grandson) and later grew to include other players. The 2017 lineup includes some former Mammal members including Jacob Silver and Ken Maiuri when they are not touring with Lee Fields and the B-52’s respectively. “It’s a blessing to have a connection to the past and such great new players too,” says Mike. “The alchemy of fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and drums is magic… and when keys, pedal steel, and horns are in the mix we leap to the next level.”
The Mammals have released a rowdy live-in-the-living-room video of the song “On My Way Home” and are digitally releasing a pair of topical tunes, “Culture War” and “My Baby Drinks Water” Spring 2017.
The Mammals are a high-octane Americana quintet from New York’s storied Hudson Valley carrying on the work of Pete Seeger & Woody Guthrie with a deep original repertoire and signature “trad is rad” sound.
“Some of the best songwriting of their generation.” (LA Weekly) “A string band at the core, The Mammals augment their sound with drums and electric guitar to create a collectively harmonized howl as thrilling and rocking as any band currently subverting folk traditions.” (No Depression)
Founded in 2001 by Seeger’s grandson, Tao, second generation fiddler/singer, Ruth Ungar, and banjo/guitar songsmith, Mike Merenda, The Mammals reemerged in 2017 “stronger than ever” (Folk Alley) fronted by Mike + Ruthy along with drums, bass and pedal steel. Known for their jubilant, high-energy shows, The Mammals deftly move from older-than-dirt banjo duets to sound-the-alarm topical fare that’s right in line with the times, bouncing from roof raising hoe-downs to hear-a-pin-drop a cappella balladry.
“The Mammals don’t suffer from multiple genre syndrome, they celebrate it as if gleefully aware that the sound barriers separating old-timey music, vintage pop and contemporary folk are as permeable as cotton.” (Washington Post) Their dynamic shows regularly bring a tear to the eye and hope to the hearts of listeners of all generations. In an era of disconnect, The Mammals work to re-connect thru their truth-telling lyrics, off-the-cuff storytelling and euphoric instrumentals.
In 2018 The Mammals will be touring internationally in support of their their new full-length release including the singles My Baby Drinks Water, a mother’s lullaby plea to protect clean water, and Culture War, a song that “gets right to the heart of the fight for the American soul.” (No Depression)
Stay tuned for more news on the next full record, slated for release in early 2018. They’re in the studio capturing road-tested songs that like “Maple Leaf” and “When My Story Ends,” experimental journeys like “I Dreamed” and “Open the Door” and some brand new beauties and foot-stompers to boot.