Peter Mulvey

Deep Blue

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Peter Mulvey submerges his bluesy art-folk in a big vat of modern rock on this, his second album with Eastern Front records. Its producer, Nicholas Sansano, has previously worked with a lot of acts who are much more funky than folky (Public Enemy, Janet Jackson, Sonic Youth, Soul Coughing), and it shows. Of those artists, Mulvey's new sound most recalls Soul Coughing, thanks to the impressively versatile heavy rhythms of drummer Mike Piehl and the electric ambience of David Goodrich's guitars (both are members of Groovasaurus). Their darkly driven rock blends surprisingly well with Mulvey's celebrated plucking and sliding: his frenetic acoustic style recalls both Ani Difranco and B.B. King, and his strings are tuned so low that the bass notes dominate the album, even though only one track uses an electric bass guitar. However, the skill and ingenuity of these musicians do not completely conceal the fact that Mulvey's songwriting is still in the developing stages. While his lyrics attempt cleverness and depth, they often achieve only earnestness. The melodies become somewhat monotonous by the album's end. And Mulvey's vocals are still burdened by affectation (he sounds a bit like Willy Porter impersonating Tom Waits). But there are moments where these songs achieve inspiring bursts of transcendence, painting vast aural landscapes which perfectly decorate Mulvey's emotional imagery.

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