On Saturday, June 3, the brilliant, mercurial troubadour Peter Mulvey comes to the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM) in a performance for Flying Cat Music. The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $20 or $17 with reservations. For information or reservations, email email@example.com or call 845-688-9453.
Peter Mulvey has been reviewed by Rolling Stone and the Associated Press, featured on National Public Radio‘s “All Things Considered,” and called “as cover-worthy as Randy Newman” by the Washington Post. He also conducts an annual September concert tour by bicycle, and performed a twelve-hour street concert in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2015 to benefit charity. Twenty-five years into his recording career, Peter Mulvey stays true to his roots which, in his case, involved formative years spent busking – first on the streets of Dublin, Ireland, and later in the Boston subway.
In that spirit, Peter’s eighth CD, 2002’s Ten Thousand Mornings, was actually recorded live on Boston’s Davis Square subway platform. Still you are far more likely to catch Mulvey these days headlining at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival or sharing a stage with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Ani DiFranco, The Indigo Girls, or Greg Brown; but, by all means pay attention to the next guy you hear playing on a street corner, with Peter Mulvey, you can never be sure. As the AP reviewer of Peter Mulvey’s new CD Are You Listening? (produced by his friend Ani DiFranco with her and her band as accompanists) puts it, “This singer-songwriter marches to his own drum, even when there isn’t one.”
When it comes to Peter Mulvey’s music he is, literally, impossible to categorize with labels. In Mulvey’s universe, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk are presumed colleagues of Tom Waits and Jolie Holland, while Bill Frisell and Willie Nelson are obviously in the same wheelhouse. Which might explain why The Boston Globe says of him: “His style is equal parts breezy jazz and whispery folk, screeching alt and wry cabaret. His voice feels like fine old leather, and his guitar sounds like it’s on steroids. He’s a superb technician with a fondness for ignoring the rules, and a genre-defying traditionalist.” The Boston Herald adds further insights into Peter’s magic, “Mulvey spins out a rhythmically intriguing cascade of images and thoughts, influenced by poetry and spoken word… like some Tin Pan Alley wit gone beatnik.”
Meanwhile back in Ireland, The Irish Times now regards Peter Mulvey as: “consistently the most original and dynamic of the US singer-songwriters to tour these shores. A phenomenal performer with huge energy, a quick fire, quirky take on life, and an extraordinary guitar style. A joy to see.” While The Irish Examiner says, “Peter Mulvey is one of the most accomplished guitarists you’re ever likely to hear …his intelligent and sometimes complex songs engage both hemispheres of the listener’s brain.”
Mulvey has a rare ability to hold an audience’s attention and transport them, using wit, humor, and a subtle, but sophisticated, melodic and harmonic sensibility to gracefully introduce complex and provocative concepts and characters. He can’t help it. That’s simply who he is. An interviewer for the Connecticut newspaper South Coast Today recently wrote: “I’ve interviewed hundreds of musicians over the years for this column, and each one is interesting in his or her own way. But every once in a while, I talk to someone who blows my mind on a whole other level. Add Peter Mulvey to that list.”
In reviewing a Mulvey concert from last November, the New Mexico weekly Alibi commented, “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… 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.”
Mulvey is an iconoclast within the singer-songwriter world. Restless and inventive, his seventeen-plus records, span rock and roll, folk, Tin Pan Alley, spoken word, and Americana of every genre. A spoken word piece titled “Vlad the Astrophysicist,” which began as a conversation at his recurring gig at the National Youth Science Camp, morphed into a TEDx talk after it debuted as “a song” and later, in 2016, it evolved into an illustrated book. But some know Peter Mulvey best for the song he gave away. His hometown newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, tells the story:
“Milwaukee-based singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey walked into his hotel in Beacon, N.Y., on June 17 (2015), and saw the news on a TV in the lobby: Nine people had been shot and killed inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
He couldn’t sleep, and the events festered in Mulvey’s mind for 36 hours. Then on Friday, he read that the Confederate flag was flying over the South Carolina Confederate Monument, within view of the State House, where the other flags were at half-staff.
That day, Mulvey was inspired to write a folk song, “Take Down Your Flag,” in the basement of the Calvin Theater in Northhampton, Mass., before a show. The song came to him in 10 minutes…
… he mourns one of the victims, 87-year-old Susie Jackson, and sings of ridding racism and violence once and for all … In the end, he urges, ‘Take down your flag to half-mast. And then take it down for good.”
That weekend Peter posted it on YouTube. When a fan asked if he planned to write verses for the other victims, Mulvey posted another video, teaching people how to play the song, and encouraging them to write their own verses. Amateurs and professional musicians from around the globe joined in and over a hundred versions followed, including ones by Jeff Daniels, Keb’ Mo’, Paula Cole, and Anais Mitchell.
Though he will never quite fit the mold, Peter Mulvey is also, in his heart, a folksinger.