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This article was prepared for the December 4, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Generic Name, Stellar Genes
When it comes to characterizing any of the earth’s music-makers,
"mammals" is about as generic as you can get. But keep your
ears open for the Mammals, a youthful acoustic stringband trio. Co-sponsored
by the Seminarians for Social Change and the Princeton Folk Music
Society, the Mammals perform Friday, December 6, in the Mackay Campus
Center of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Mercer Street and Library
The Mammals features Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, grandson of the legendary
Pete Seeger, art-pop songwriter Michael Merenda, and Ruth Ungar, daughter
of the Grammy Award-winning fiddler and composer Jay Ungar and folksinger
Formed in 2001, and making rapid evolutionary strides, the band has
already released two CDs: "Evolver" and "The Mammals,
Born Live." They appear in Princeton fresh from their November
Carnegie Hall debut, appearing with Arlo Guthrie at his annual "Alice’s
Restaurant" Thanksgiving show. Guthrie’s 2002 show, reprised at
Newark’s NJPAC on November 29, honored two folk legends: living legend
Pete Seeger, who joined the show, and Woody Guthrie on what would
have been his 90th birthday.
The Mammals define themselves as "rekindling" folk traditions
and passing them on to future generations. Specializing in roots and
other traditional folk music, the young group also performs original
songs. The Boston Globe has praised them as "the hottest young
stringband to emerge from the Northeast in years."
Tao Rodriguez-Seeger grew up in Nicaragua where he was deeply affected
by that country’s traditional music and culture. He is an accomplished
guitarist, banjo-player, and song stylist, and has performed
alongside his grandfather since age 14.
Ruth Ungar studied acting in college but was drawn back into her family
trade, music. Audiences enjoy her soulful renditions of original and
classic songs from country to cajun and kick up their heels to her
lively fiddle styles. Ruth plays guitar and four ukeleles, including
a custom electric ukelele.
Merenda began his career as a drummer, guitarist, and songwriter in
ska and rock bands before learning clawhammer banjo and acquiring
an enthusiasm for folk traditions. Some of his song lyrics are bareknuckled
attacks on hypocrisy that charm their way into your thoughts and resurface
when you least expect them to.
Looking ahead at the band’s schedule, the Mammals may have found a
favorable ecological niche in New Jersey. Upcoming gigs range from
Morristown to McCarter.
Campus Center, Princeton Theological Seminary, Mercer Street and Library
Place, 609-799-0944. $15; $3 children. Friday, December 6, 8:15
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