Music

In Review: Peter Mulvey

Peter Mulvey
Peter Mulvey
Courtesy of the Artist

Peter Mulvey is easily the most earnest and honest singer-songwriter on the circuit I’ve seen in years.

He is a man just as natural and comfortable in an intimate setting as he is in front of a large radio audience being heard by thousands. Mulvey is a veteran, itinerant performer with over two decades of touring, recording, song-writing and co-writing songs under his belt.

Mulvey handcrafts songs with precision, delicacy and a flair for narrative depth. Rather than call him a folk singer, he looks at himself as a writer and a keen participant-observer of life. He has an ease with storytelling that he wears like an old, perfectly fitting corduroy shirt.

In fact, it is a sign of a great and wondrous entertainer when the stories and banter between songs is as engaging as the outstanding performance of the musical material itself.

That’s how it was with Mulvey's performance at the Cooperage in Albuquerque, Nov. 4, promoted by AMP Concerts. He excelled as a singer-songwriter with many gears, including overdrive. The audience was in rapt attention throughout the evening. Through two substantial sets Mulvey demonstrated that he is a tour-de-force as a one man song machine in human form.

Drawing songs from across the range of his repertoire, he expanded the room into the realms of personal and world history, art and literature, as well as current affairs.

Within a couple of songs, people in the audience were head-bobbing and toe-tapping away to the rhythms and vocals. Mulvey is a masterful guitar player which is why his set took off like a human-powered rocket. He continued to build the mood with a series of topical, humorous and political songs. Since it was within a couple days of the World Series, he told the story of the 108 stitches on a baseball, 108 beads on a monk’s necklace and 108 years of the Chicago Cubs' curse being broken that week.

In an interview with Weekly Alibi, Mulvey spoke about his early influences and formative years as a musician. As a child, growing up Catholic, he was exposed to Greek myths and stories in church. He added that, in his opinion, if people are lucky they come to see the stories in their Catholic upbringing, retrospectively, as myths.

Musically, he began playing guitar at seven years old and was exposed to rock and roll in high school. Early artistic influences included guitar specialists Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges. As a very young man, he began performing on the streets and in the subways of Ireland and Boston. These experiences in his youth were the most indelible and formative of his early musical career.

What cemented his path was that he fell in early with people who are the singer-songwriters that do this for a living. Mulvey wanted to become someone that made "live music for live people." “When I encountered these people," he continued, "I wanted to play music the way they play music.”

Between the ages of 20-22, he was exposed to the seminal Emmylou Harris record, Wrecking Ball, the wonderfully moody and atmospheric albums by Ry Cooder, the highly esteemed Tom Waits, and one of the giants of the folk festival and singer-songwriting scene, Greg Brown. It was at this time that Mulvey also had close encounters with the jazz genre.

“It’s the myth and dream realms, that is what we’re after. I feel like of all the musicians, it’s what the jazz players can say that’s more profound than any lyricists.”

Mulvey is a busy and prolific artist. He stated, “I can think easily of next four records I’d like to make ... with a violinist, with a string quartet, another with a group of female singers and a party record of old folk tunes.”

“I actually need to goof off and give those projects room to grow. Time to play, that’s what art is, play. American puritan ethic, we narcotized ourselves with work, avoiding the real business of being a human being ... caring about the people around you, sitting with the uncertainties of life. That’s what’s important.”

It's melodically clear: From Peter Mulvey we not only get entertained, we get educated.

Look for Peter Mulvey to return to our area on March 11, 2017, when he’ll be performing at the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, N.M. Tickets for that springtime show are now available by clicking on this handy link.