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Welcome brothers and sisters to episode #14 of the Cornbread Cafe. I am the mongrel, and I will be your grill master at this barbecue bonanza we’re firing up for you today. Cazh and cozy, we’re located at the five-corners of Blues, Americana, Folk, Country, and Gospel. And you can sometimes catch an express to Rock ’n’ Roll at the bus stop across the way.
I hope you brought your appetite, too because we’re going to burn a full-rack of meaty American Roots tunes out on the back deck. And not only that — we’re finally going to share an interview that’s been in the smoker for a good long time. I’ve given you nibbles in different shows over the last year, but I am truly honored to present to you, in its entirely, for the first time, the conversation I had with Mike Merenda of the Mammals (first featured back in Episode 13) . If you’re a Cornbread Cafe fan, then chances are good that you already know about this Hudson Valley area band that draws from the very best in the Folk Tradition — stories grounded humbly in the Earth, yet told with a fire and a musical prowess that seems effortless. You can see and hear for yourself, too, because they’ll be gracing the barn boards at Hancock Shaker Village Saturday, July 27, in the next installment of the Shaker Barn Music series. Note that the Hancock Shaker Village is one of our 2019 season sponsors, so be sure to thank them for supporting independent local news when you go.
Featured in this Episode:
The core of the group has, since its inception in 2001 consisted of Mike Merenda and Ruth Ungar to whom he’s also married. Other musicians have rotated in and out of the lineup, which has has infused the act with a lot unique talents and perspectives over the years. They’ve shared stages with both legendary figures in roots music as well as artists from recent generations of folk fame. Look for a link in the show notes for more details — a more impressive who’s-who list would be hard to come by.
Also in the first half of the show I’ll be spinning a few tunes off the Mammals 2018 release Sunshiner, which earned a place on the Americana Music Association’s “Top 100 Albums and Songs for 2018.”
Before we do that though, let me introduce you to the opening act for this episode, Todd Snider. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Snider, except that he’s irreverent and witty as hell. His publicist sent me a track that’s a lot tamer than some of the tracks I’d love to play for you, probably following standard decency rules for radio. Except that I’m a podcaster and a streamer and I’ll play whatever I want. But, until they actually send me his entire latest LP, Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3, I guess I’d better just play it safe, and play you “Talking Reality Television Blues,” which should warm up the house nicely. If you like what you hear, visit his Spotifiy for more, and if you REALLY like what you hear, you can check him out live Wednesday, July 24 at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY. .
So, again, that was Todd Snider, with “Talking Reality Television Blues,” off the Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3. I’ll see what I can do about bringing some of his more candid tunes to you soon. But now, I am definitely in the mood for a heaping helping of the Mammals, which, now that I hear myself say the name, probably should have warned me away from the barbecue theme of this episode. After 20 years of marriage to a vegetarian, you’d think I’d know better. Oh well. A round of apologies to all — on the house.
One of things you’ll hear Mike Merenda talk about on this show is the realization that you get more mileage out of positivity when you’re singing to change the world. I think you’ll pick up on that in the title track of Sunshiner, that I inject into the middle of our conversation, as well as right now with the very hopeful “Make It True,” right here on the Cornbread Cafe.
The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow
That was “Fork in the Road,” also off 2018’s Sunshiner. And because I want you to hear some of that shared DNA with a multiply, previously featured act, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow” (wayyy back in INDIEcent Exposure #23) I’m going to fire up a tune off 2017’s live album, Heart of the Run. And now that you know Chris Merenda from Whiskey Treaty and Mike Merenda from Mammals are brothers, I’ll let you ponder where the musical DNA weaves in with the biological. The tapestry actually get pretty complex, too — since the Whiskey Treaty’s forthcoming album, “Band Together,” is being produced by Johnny Irion, with whom the Mammals have shared the stage along with Johnny Irion’s wife and musical partner, Sarah Lee Guthrie. Until that album comes out though, here’s “Every Day It’s Always Something” as a crunchy next course in this feast.
We just heard from Anna Stine, who’s been compared to Norah Jones and Laura Marling, and I think I might detect a little Bonnie Rait swagger in there, as well as some Halie Loren precision. The song was “Eyelids” off her new release, Company of Now. I Love that song’s vibe — how ‘bout you. You know, if you fall hard for any of the tunes you hear on this podcast, and want to hear more from the artist, just hit me up at [email protected], and I’ll try to serve ‘em up as quick as I can. And yes, that e-mail address again was [email protected] C-A-F-E
Before that, we heard “Every Day It’s Always Something,” from the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s debut full-length live album, “Heart of the Run.” I’ll share tracks from their upcoming release as soon as they land in my DL folder.
Brett Allen Gregory
We’re going to end this show with a talented artist who isn’t just a gifted guitarist, but a musician who demonstrates a versatility that is truly admirable. Brett Allen Gregory got in touch with me towards the end of last year, which, if you’ve been following the evolution of the Greylock Glass, you know was kind of a clusterfumble schedule-wise. But I’ve really been looking forward to turning you on to tracks off his recent LP, Tales of the Bed Yam, and I have a feeling it’s going to be my go-to album for many episodes to come. His tune “Here and Gone” showcases both that musicianship I was talking about, and a gift for compelling lyric composition.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
But first, I’ve been saving a little surprise for y’all. You a big fan of the Black Crowes? Did you follow Chris Robinson’s evolution post-Crowes into his latest project, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood? Well guess what? The band was kind enough to send me a couple tracks to give you just a taste of their brand new album, Servants of the Sun that just dropped last month, and available through their website — link in the shownotes. So feast your ears on the very tasty tune, hot off the grill, “Come’n Round the Mountain.”
Well, brothers and sisters, that does it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in, and remember, if you’re a musician, I am ALWAYS looking for Indie artists to feature on the Cornbread Cafe. You don’t need to have a following of a gazillion fans. In fact, since I hand craft every single bespoken episode, you might have exactly the track that would complete the show perfectly, even if only your bandmates, girlfriend, and mother have heard it before. You send it. I’ll figure out if I can fit it in.