Unity House Concerts Presents: Mike + Ruthy
(Friday, December 4 @ The UU Society of Greater Springfield, MA)
Cover Lay Down is proud to present Unity House Concerts, a folk-and-more music series hosted by yours truly and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield. Concerts are held monthly in our wooded sanctuary, and feature well-beloved musicians and new folk voices committed to the UU Coffeehouse tradition of channeling the spirit of community through song.
Our 2015-2016 series features a diverse set of artists, including past shows with The Sea The Sea (September), Mary Lou Lord (October), and an incredible show last weekend with Matt Nakoa…upcoming shows with The Western Den (February 13), Joe Jencks (March 19) and more as-yet-to-be-confirmed singer-songwriters, duos, and bands…and our very first Friday night show, on December 4, with revered American roots duo Mike + Ruthy.
He grew up listening to ska-punk and alternative rock radio, dreaming of becoming a songwriter on the political edge. She was raised at the intersection of folk and swing, daughter of fiddle master Jay Ungar and country songwriter Lyn Hardy. They met in NYC, just out of college, and went on to found “subversive acoustic stringband” The Mammals, one of the most popular folk rock bands of their generation. And when The Mammals split up, and they married, they spent their honeymoon in the studio, recording a debut duo album aptly called The Honeymoon Agenda.
Now, after several more full-length albums and over a decade of performance together, indie folk roots pair Mike + Ruthy, aka Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar, have established a reputation for breathtaking delivery and intimate performance, with exquisite songs and songcraft that combine catchy folk-pop choruses with honest, organic tradfolk and roots elements, played out on guitars, fiddle, banjo, ukulele, and a single microphone. Heralds of an American cultural awakening that values honesty and togetherness, prefers grit to glitz, and revels in the old-fashioned telling of a story, their most recent projects include opening gigs for Ani DiFranco and Kate Pierson of the B-52s, a majestic new album with a full five-piece band that is rich and vast with influence and energy, a twice-yearly folk and roots festival called The Hoot which has brought Sprit Family Reunion, Amy Helm, Elizabeth Mitchell, Natalie Merchant, Jeffrey Lewis, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and other Cover Lay Down favorites to the Ashokan Center near their home in upstate NY, a haunting posthumous Woody Guthrie collaboration, and a growing family, with parent and child generations that regularly join them on tour and on stage.
We featured Ruth Ungar in our early years as a blog, touching on her work with Michael and The Mammals, and with Aoife O’Donovan and Kristen Andreassen as “acoustic’n'harmonies” indiefolk trio Sometymes Why. But while it is true that, of the pair, it is Ruth who has the family connections, like many indiefolk musicians today, both Michael and Ruth perform and record in multiple modes, both within and beyond the boundaries of their core pairing. Indeed, the merging of his proto-rock radio grounding and her firm tradition has blossomed into a longstanding journey that ranges from soft blues to raucous tradfolk to grungy folkrock sets that frame them as exemplars of their age to critics and peers alike.
Mike Merenda often claims to see music as a way to both capture the world as a living, breathing organism, and to offer it love in the name of restoration; his three solo albums deliver on this adeptly, with outspoken lyrics delivered in a soft, breathy voice over stringwork and production that ranges from true-blue folk to more electrified roots rock fare. By this standard, their collaborative work together is a triumph: free and beautiful, true and sincere, and powerfully political, reflecting the quirky nuances of the world and resonating with the intimate selves we harbor within it.
Which makes me all the more proud to be hosting Mike + Ruthy at our own concert series, and to have the opportunity to tout their musicianship and performance through coverage today.
So check out our diverse set of covers below from their various incarnations and collaborations, and, as always, consider following the accompanying links to purchase their work, and support their shared mission. And then – geography and time permitting – contact us now to reserve your seat for a date with “one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos” – an event that promises to thrill your senses, raise your spirits, and delve deep into your soul.
- Mike and Ruthy: Long Way Home (orig. Tom Waits) 
- Mike and Ruthy: I’ll Keep It With Mine (orig. Nico) 
- The Mammals: Chan Chan (orig. Compay Segundo) 
- The Mammals: Quite Early Morning (orig. Pete Seeger) 
- AC Newman w/ Mike and Ruthy: Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (orig. Leonard Cohen) 
- Ruth Ungar: It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing (orig. Duke Ellington) 
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