Album Review | Humble Abode Music | Review by Allan Wilkinson
There’s an immediate warmth that fills the air once Ruth Ungar Merenda’s honeyed voice flows from the speakers on “Coming Down Off Summer”, her breathy lines and gently strummed ukulele as soulful as just about anything produced in Muscle Shoals. We all have our own ways of ‘winding down’ after work, after an ordeal or in Ruth’s case, after a tour. Ruth does it more than adequately in song, whilst reflecting on her adventures, with only a handful of festival laminates to show for it. These are the personal songs we want to hear and that we can in a way connect with. The Mammals have been returning from summer festivals for over twenty years now, albeit with a nine-year hiatus in the middle, collecting many a laminate along the way. This is a band you want to join, immediately.
Nonet simply describes the nine musicians now involved with the band, an outfit led by Ruth and husband Mike Merenda. The ten original songs, written by either Mike or Ruth, are like melted butter, sumptuously arranged with tight performances throughout. The Dylan influenced “If You Could Hear Me Now”, written by Mike and beautifully rendered by Ruth, really wouldn’t be out of place on the ‘Freewheelin’ album, its simple finger-picked guitar and sparse embellishment providing the song with all the necessary warmth and atmosphere it needs. Then there’s the actual physical presentation, especially for the deluxe edition, which includes an additional bonus five-song disc and a handsome booklet containing the lyrics, with original artwork by designer Carly James, which adds to the classiness of The Mammals, a band everyone should hear, even if they can’t actually join.
Choice Track: Coming Down Off Summer (NSV 505)