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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

Lyn Hardy.

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.

The Mammals, Princeton Folk Music Society, Mackay

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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