The Mulligan Brothers — whose music crosses borders between folk rock, Americana and alternate country — perform two sets.
$7 Adv – $10 Door
Doors @ 7:30 PM
The Mulligan Brothers self-titled debut album begins with a mournful fiddle supported by the steady undercurrent of bass and drums. As Ross Newell begins his haunting tale of forbidden plantation love, it is clear that the song will end in death and heartbreak, but well-written songs don’t need a catchy chorus or a happy ending to win over an audience or to be played over and over.
She was born into subjection. She was born without a say.
He was her first and only revelation that she might not die that way.
I will love you all the seasons. What you want is what I’ll be.
I’ll be your rock, I’ll be your reason.
Just set me free. Oh, just set me free.
The Mulligan Brothers, from Mobile and Baton Rouge, is Newell on lead vocals and guitar, Gram Rea on vocals, fiddle, mandolin and harmonica, Greg DeLuca on drums and Ben Leininger on upright suitcase bass (all can sing lead or harmony). Their name represents a second chance for the four musicians who finally found the combination that is right for them. "A Mulligan in golf is a ‘do over’ and that is what this band is for us," says Rea. "We wanted a chance to figure this out the right way."
Their music crosses borders between folk rock, Americana and alternate country, giving Newell the unhurried space to sing about escaping the miseries of life with a soul that isn't worth much these days, a woman he loves who calls him by another man's name, and pleading with God to bring tomorrow to wash away today.
In an age of downloads and disposable singles, The Mulligan Brothers is a whole album of straightforward narratives with concise, original lines. Newell’s honest, sincere voice cuts to the heart in songs that mean as much to himself as to the listener, with the meaning of the chorus deepening after every verse.
“There is no better album that has been released this year, and I get albums from around the world every day,” says Tony Plosczynski, host of 92 New that introduces new music on 92 Zew in Mobile. “The Lumineers, Jake Bugg and The Mulligan Brothers are my top three albums of the year."
The lyrics set the songs apart but it is the rhythm and string melodies that grab attention. The band plays every song from the album mixed in with covers that sound like their own, but it is the original songs such as “Lay Here” and “Kaleidoscope” that are shouted in request.
Before the Mulligan Brothers, Newell almost recorded some of the songs as a solo project. "Several times I had talked myself into and out of recording these songs, probably from paranoia, but this was the right time and the right way to do it," says Newell. “Gram, Ben, Greg and I played together for the first time a year ago at my house and it was immediately right.”
The songs seemed to pick themselves as the arrangements evolved and expanded from rehearsal to recording. "There was a temptation to add more instruments during production but we wanted to reproduce the songs on stage every night," says Rea. "If we can't play it live, we didn't play it on the album, and that shaped our sound."
Unlike most singer songwriters, Newell does not tell the stories behind each song. He wants listeners to take their own meaning, but some songs deepen when you know the stories behind them. He wrote “Thrift Store Suitcase” about working as a union electrician at the state docks on a coal conveyor job. “It was miserable, boring work,” says Newell. “I had been romanticizing about being able to play music for a living. If I could just book a few more gigs, then I would have my ticket out of town and get away from everything familiar. One night I walked out of the coal dust area and a guy was holding a sign saying he needed a ride to the gas station. The song is his story. We walked to my truck and he said, ‘I know what you are thinking, I look like Jesus, right? I get that all of the time.’ He had a child with a woman in New Orleans and loved them, but she was from a wealthy family and they gave her an ultimatum to leave him and they would take care of the bills. He left them for the good of his family.”
The old man looks like Jesus, says I get that all the time. If I were I’d leave the coast and throw away my cardboard sign. Said I looked like an old friend that he’d lost somewhere down the line. That if I were his friend and if he were the Lord he’d turn the ocean into wine. Said I had a family down in New Orleans that just lived beyond me means thought I’d just go out and find my scene.
“Thrift Store Suitcase”
Lessons learned in first bands create an appreciation for The Mulligan Brothers' second chance and their future together. “We have learned from the mistakes we made in other bands such as overproduced albums, or arranging songs when the individual music styles don’t fit,” says Rea. “Now every show is part of building a career playing music as The Mulligan Brothers. We don’t know where this is going to lead, but we want to play together for a long time and keep making songs that people care about.”