The Mulligan Brothers @ Whelans - Sunday 7th February 2016


This is the final night of the Mulligan Brothers premier Irish tour and these four very talented musicians from Alabama have been gathering much attention over their time on these shores.

They play a music that is very organic and falls into a roots/traditional folk music arena but with a modern twist. The players are all very accomplished and the interplay is dynamic and energising across a set that lasts 2 hours and displays everything that is unique and compelling about this group.They have two releases to their credit and already the media have been impressed by their melodic songs and the public has been spreading very positive messages, which bodes well for the future success of this excellent band.

The song-writing of Ross Noble is very much based in the stories of everyday life, trying to make it in the big city; meeting a new girlfriend or breaking up with an old one; reflecting of getting older and wiser and just living the days with grace on our journey. 

The harmony singing is of the highest order and the mix of fiddle, guitar, mandolin, suitcase bass and subtle drumming leads for a heady concoction of irrepressible tunes. Playing tracks from both releases, the abiding feeling is that of being in the presence of a band whose time is about to arrive in terms of greater success.

When they play, there is great space in the sound, that allows room for the understated touches of Gram Rea on fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and the fluid guitar playing of Ross Noble to float over the solid rhythm laid down by drummer Greg DeLuca and Ben Leininger on bass.

Numbers such as Oh Susana, Wait For Me, Bad Idea and Kaleidoscope highlight the essence of the band in full flight with plenty of colour in the arrangements. A cover of Atlantic City by the Boss is really impressive and the sweet vocal of Ross really brings the song alive in a way that places a new perspective on the song meaning. 

Ross has a voice that reaches out and touches a space far above the room and just hovers in the air. He also tells a great story and his between - song thoughts about what inspired a particular lyric are full of insight about family ties, relationships and the real stuff of life. 

After a quick break we are treated to a second set that includes Louise, Sensible Shoes, Run On Ahead, City Full of Streets and Too Soon to Say, each song highlighting the joy within the ensemble playing off each other. The encore focuses on two classics from The Band, namely The Weight and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, with each member taking turns to showcase their vocal range and talent.  A fine end to a show that confirmed just how good these players really are in capturing the true essence of performance. Watch this band soar.

Review and photograph by Paul McGee