Peter Mulvey traveled to New Orleans to record with producer and friend Ani DiFranco and her band. Are You Listening? marks the 25th anniversary of a rich career of approximately 4,000 concerts and over a million miles traveled. NPR’s Robert Siegel wasn’t kidding when he said, “Peter Mulvey is a 21st century troubadour.”
Ani’s Take on Peter’s music: “Mulvey has been honing his craft for many a decade and it shows. He can play some badass guitar, sing to touch your heart, and write a song that will knock you down. And by knock you down, I mean lift you up."
Lyrically, the songs from Are You Listening? range from the emotive, stream-of-consciousness flood of “The Other Morning Over Coffee” to the spare, haunting title track, which uses only seventeen words. The brutal allegory of “Just Before the War” is answered by the upbeat “It Can Get You By”. Working with the keen ear of a songwriter who has been informed by poetry all along, Mulvey sets the ordinary and the profound side by side, especially on the quirky opening track, “D.I.A.” which begins as a drive to the Denver Airport and ends as a call-out to “Wayfaring Stranger.”
Musically, the sure hand of Ani and her touring band, Todd Sickafoose and Terence Higgins, along with newcomer Anna Tivel, shape the songs as they run the gamut from the full-on Americana rocker “The Last Song” to the jazzy dissonance of “The Details.”
The friendship between DiFranco and Mulvey deepened in the summer of 2015. Mulvey was opening a run of shows for her when the shootings at the Emanuel Church in Charleston occurred. In the basement of the Calvin Theater in Northampton, after a long heart-to-heart among the band members, Mulvey went into his dressing room and wrote “Take Down Your Flag”. He sang it twenty minutes later, and as he came offstage, DiFranco asked him to teach her the song. She sang it two days later, and substituted her own verse for one Tywanza Sanders (one of the victims) in place of Mulvey’s verse for Susie Jackson. Within a few days, their versions were posted to YouTube and over the next few weeks, hundreds of songwriters added their own versions, including Anais Mitchell, Keb’ Mo, Paula Cole, and Jeff Daniels.
DiFranco’s help with giving “Take Down Your Flag” a wider audience naturally led to the collaboration on Are You Listening? Like DiFranco, Mulvey is an artist with deep roots in community: his early days as a busker in Dublin and Boston are echoed by his marathon online benefit concerts via Concert Window, the last of which he played from his Wisconsin home venue the Cafe Carpe on January 15 to benefit the ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, the NRDC, Relief International, and Public Allies. His long association with the National Youth Science Foundation prompted him to add a yearly warm-weather bicycle tour to his schedule: 2017’s tour will be the 10th anniversary, and the tours have covered thousands of miles.
Mulvey has shared stages with Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, the Indigo Girls, and many others.
“Pure musical poetry” (The Courier), Lara Herscovitch’s music is an original blend of modern folk with blues, jazz, and pop influences. With her voice “clear and smooth like expensive liquor,” she stands “above and beyond the pack” (Northeast Performer). Former Connecticut State Troubadour, Lara brings a charm, authenticity, and love of performing that immediately resonates with diverse audiences. She has appeared as a guest on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor and tours from Maine to Miami. She also has extensive experience as a policy social worker, and has worked in the US, Latin America and Asia on behalf of disadvantaged individuals – focusing on education, community development, and juvenile justice. Echoes of these themes resonate throughout her music.