Saint Luke’s, Glasgow, January 18, 2019.
By MIKE RITCHIE
The Mammals can head for their US home content in the knowledge that they delivered big style at the final gig of their UK tour.
Their joyous mix of fiddle-led, frenzied ceilidh-style instrumentals, soft-light, late night ballads, a homespun song about their daughter plus acapella gems round a single mic were irresistible, as a delighted crowd showed.
Hailed by many as Americana trailblazers, Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda, happily married and exuding togetherness on stage, are also gently-mannered activists with well-crafted songs that successfully ask potent questions of politicians and raise issues to probe how we can improve the planet.
They deliver their material persuasively and in an eloquent manner with enjoyment of their music underpinning the approach overall. The music is the motivator throughout.
Sunshiner, title song from their current release, has been nominated for Best Song of 2018 in the International Folk Music Awards.
It is a wonderfully evocative track that Mike wrote in a matter of minutes on his sick bed. The political overtones are subtle while examining sustainability issues. “My daddy was a miner / I’m going to be a sunshiner” is the repeated message.
Ruth wrote the gorgeous, Maple Leaf from Sunshiner after one such leaf blew against her car windscreen. You could sense fully the pleasure she got from singing it. And then the contrast in styles kicked in again with Rock On Little Jane, from an earlier Mike & Ruthy Band album. This terrific and infectious country rocker goes well with beer drinking and hit us with great gusto. Mike explained it is about the couple’s daughter, who is actually called Opel, but they couldn’t a find a word to rhyme with her name.
Fork In The Road, from Sunshiner, storms lustily along though it was not on the original playlist and appeared, thankfully, as a request, showing the strength in depth of their catalogue.
Michigan singer/songwriter, May Erlewine and a tight band were truly superb as support. She, too, is acutely socially aware and a delicate, new song, My Best For You, was written for her five-month-old daughter.
The exuberance of Never One Thing from her current release, Mother Lion, was buoyed by audience participation and that was not the only time she had us performing with her. River Jordan, covered by fellow Sweet Water Warbler, Lindsay Lou (of the Flatbellys), was quite magnificent.
This may have been the first night of May’s tour but she was clearly into her stride – a new album is on the way, too, so hopefully she’ll return for more gigs.
Picture by Heather Aird