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Second Chances for The Mulligan Brothers

21 Oct 2013

written by The Southern Rambler

Photo by Michelle Stancil

The Mulligan Brothers self-titled debut album begins with a mournful fiddle supported by the steady undercurrent of bass and drums. As Ross Newell begins his haunting tale of forbidden plantation love, it is clear that the song will end in death and heartbreak, but well-written songs don’t need a catchy chorus or a happy ending to win over an audience or to be played over and over.

She was born into subjection. She was born without a say.

He was her first and only revelation that she might not die that way.

I will love you all the seasons. What you want is what I’ll be.

I’ll be your rock, I’ll be your reason.

Just set me free. Oh, just set me free.

“Cecilia”

 The Mulligan Brothers, from Mobile and Baton Rouge, is Newell on lead vocals and guitar, Gram Rea on vocals, fiddle, and harmonica, Greg DeLuca on drums and Ben Leninger on upright suitcase bass. Despite their matching heights and varying stages of beards, they are not brothers. The name represents a second chance for the four musicians who finally found the combination that is right for them. “A Mulligan in golf is a ‘do over’ and that is what this band is for us,” says Rea. “We wanted a chance to figure this out the right way.”

Their music crosses borders between folk rock, Americana and country, giving Newell the unhurried space to sing about escaping the miseries of life with a soul that isn’t worth much these days, a woman he loves who calls him by another man’s name, and pleading with God to bring tomorrow to wash away today. Stories of life defined by circumstances that can’t be changed.

“This is the band of my dreams,” says Newell. “This is the music that I heard in my head when I wrote the songs. I have always been a fan of Americana and acoustic music but many musicians would rather be in a rock band. It is hard to find a bass player who will pick up an upright or a drummer willing to play with restraint and add just what the song needs. Part of the chemistry of a band is agreeing on the type of music you want to play.”

In an age of downloads and disposable singles, “The Mulligan Brothers” is a whole album of straightforward narratives with concise original lines and metaphors that readers would underline in a book. There is no reverb, no distortion, and no clichés, just Newell’s honest, sincere voice cutting to the heart in songs that seem as much to himself as to the listener as he meaning of the chorus deepens after every verse.

“There is no better album that has been released this year, and I get albums from around the world every day,” says Tony Plosczynski, host of 92 New that introduces new music on 92 Zew in Mobile. “The Lumineers, Jake Bugg and The Mulligan Brothers are my top three albums of the year.”

Read the whole story on The Southern Rambler.

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