This band is a breath of fresh air and seeing them play live again after a few years is such a joyful experience on a cold Monday night at a relatively new venue in Naas.
The Presbyterian Church is a very intimate and small space, with the audience taking up the seating in the pews for an evening of highly entertaining music and song from this 3-piece who hail from Mobile, Alabama. This is their third tour of Ireland and the original touring 4-piece has now been reduced for the current dates and includes a female influence for the first time in the engaging presence of Melody Duncan on fiddle and vocals.
Existing members, Ben Leininger on upright bass and lead singer/songwriter Ross Newell bring a warmth and finely crafted talent to the experience and the superb vocal tone of Newell is without doubt one of the finest live voices I have heard in some time.
Together the three-part harmony vocals are a complete pleasure throughout their generous set that touched on all three of their releases to date. The songs are based on personal observations in many cases but are also rooted in story songs that unfurl a narrative as they weave around the sweet melodies that are crafted from the tight playing on display.
Songs included Cecelia, Thrift Store Suitcase, Oh Susanna, Lay Here and the live favourite, Mama Gets My Soul. The new release, Songs For The Living And Otherwise, is given a good exposure with songs like Roseanne, a nicely crafted story that contains a clever twist, Possession In Gm, I Know That Man, and Great Grandaddy’s War, a song that reflects on the enduring divisions that were caused in the civil war and still resonate in the southern states of America. An evening of uplifting, infectious melodies and vocal harmonies that see this trio really hit the mark.
The Mulligan Brothers may well have to consider a name change as they are well beyond ‘second chances’ at this point in their career and when you have heavy hitters such as Steve Berlin and Trina Shoemaker producing your records, then you know that you are already headed in the right direction!
The support act was a local artist, Sina Theil, originally from Germany and now living here. She has a confident presence and a fine vocal that carries her strong set with conviction. Her backing band of three musicians all play a role with fiddle, lead guitar and bass joining together to fill out the guitar and voice of Sina.
Definitely one to watch out for on the local circuit and already making inroads into the listening public with her debut album Under Cover charting at Number 1 in the Irish Country Download Charts and Number 5 in the Overall Irish Download Album Charts. Her version of Travelin’ Soldier (Bruce Robison), blended with the traditional Irish song, The Minstrel Boy, was a highlight of her set.
Review and photograph by Paul McGee