Mike + Ruthy, touring American folk act and founders of The Mammals are bringing back the band name that energized crowds in the 00's and gave them their start. "We've always been Mammals at heart," laughs Ruth Ungar, the band's soulful singer and fiddler. "The music we're making has the same old-time and Americana roots, and our lyrics have gotten more political again." It's true, The Mammals were known for their rabble-rousing musical statements which sometimes caused a stir with politically divided audiences from Louisiana to Michigan. "If you tell the whole truth you won't please everyone," smiles Mike Merenda. He's the songwriter and guitar/banjo player who's 2004 Mammals anthem "The Bush Boys" made the Dixie Chicks seem downright polite.
This time around their goals remain two-fold: raise positive social awareness & have a good party! In their recent tenure as "Mike + Ruthy" they began a home-town festival near Woodstock, NY called The Hoot which exemplifies these ideals. Pete Seeger, who performed at the inaugural Summer Hoot wrote "Dear Mike + Ruthy, your Hoot was one of the best song gatherings I've seen in all my 94 years." Perhaps it was the multi-generational celebration, the hand-built wooden stage, or the re-usable pint cups - either way, these musicians take pride in the small details that make a big difference.
"Our lives are about building community and growing together everywhere we go," says Ungar. In addition to organizing festivals, Mike + Ruthy have spent the past 9 years raising their two young children and recording and touring behind five albums that say "Wherever the good energy is, that's where I wanna raise my kids," "Some people wanna tell you that you shouldn't even try / but I wanna tell you that's a lie," and "You've got to be as bright as you can.”
Back in 2001, The Mammals originated as a partnership between Ungar, Merenda and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete's grandson) and later grew to include other players. The 2019 lineup includes some former Mammal members including Jacob Silver and Ken Maiuri when they are not touring with Lee Fields and the B-52's respectively. "It's a blessing to have a connection to the past and such great new players too," says Mike. "The alchemy of fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass and drums is magic…and when keys, pedal steel, and horns are in the mix we leap to the next level.”
In 2017, The Mammals released a rowdy live-in-the-living-room video of the song "On My Way Home" and issued the singles “Culture War,” “Lilac Breeze” and “My Baby Drinks Water,” dedicated to families and water protectors everywhere. Their 2018 release Sunshiner includes a couple of those single and some irresistible instant classics to boot.
"The Mammals don’t suffer from multiple genre syndrome, they celebrate it as if gleefully aware that the sound barriers separating old-timey music, vintage pop and contemporary folk are as permeable as cotton.” - Washington Post
“A string band at the core, The Mammals augment their sound with drums and electric guitar to create a collectively harmonized howl as thrilling and rocking as any band currently subverting folk traditions” - No Depression
"While rooted in acoustic music and lefty politics, these anti-war rants and personal reveries are updated with harmonic polish and smart, melodic twists that could equally appeal to a fan of
Fleetwood Mac or Bonnie Raitt." - Philadelphia Daily News
"The Mammals aren't the first band to mix an indie-rock sensibility with bluegrass sounds, but they're gradually becoming one of the best." - No Depression
"Combining a modern pop sensibility with organic musical honesty, you hear everything from string sections to claw-hammer banjo. The band's ability to unite disparate forms to create fresh amalgamations makes them special among the young bands trying to create "World Music." Although the Mammals' style is musically inclusive, it still remains a personal and articulate edge." - Vintage Guitar
"The Mammals are the finest young bluegrass/old-timey band in the country, the country-branch house band for the new weird America. They perform total energy, off-kilter folk that more resembles the twisted quirk of the Holy Modal Rounders than the clean jeans or alter-ninnies currently clawhammering banjos. Michael Simmons - LA Weekly