Wake Up Now is the second solo album by former Portico Quartet percussionist Nick Mulvey, a singer, songwriter, and (primarily) guitarist with a degree in ethnomusicology. The follow-up to his Mercury Prize-nominated debut, First Mind, it likewise showcases an array of world music influences, particularly in terms of rhythm, but listeners will also notice a less intimate, more exuberant presentation. The latter has a lot to do with the fact that it was recorded live in the studio as a band with producer Ethan Johns (Paul McCartney, Ray LaMontagne). Following those sessions, tracks were passed to First Mind producer Dan Carey for finishing electronic touches, resulting in a record that seems both impulsive and impeccable at once. Not only an album steeped in international styles, but in global events, Wake Up Now addresses topics including the refugee crisis and the impact of fracking. Lead single "Myela," for instance, was inspired by first-hand accounts of journeys taken by refugees. Co-written by Mulvey and backing bandmember Federico Bruno, it draws on African rhythms, pop, and group singing through verses about a young Sudanese woman in Sicily and about making it from Syria to Lebanon. (The song's video was made by Majid Adin, an Iranian animator who found refuge in the U.K.) It's not the only song with multiple guest vocalists, and Mulvey's warm, conversational tone is sometimes double-tracked in addition to being reinforced or harmonized by others. All of the above can be heard on "Remembering" alongside vibrant melodic percussion and textured plucked and strummed string instruments. Even with some serious subject matter and a spare, wistful closing track, the album's bustling arrangements keep things spirited and sometimes outright celebratory. While he found success with the low-key, folkier vibe of First Mind, Mulvey did well to heed the advice of none other than Brian Eno, who in pre-recording meetings encouraged him to share some of the load with others. The outcome sounds like a skilled musician hitting his stride.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson