PETER MULVEY & SISTASTRINGS – Live At The Cafe Carpe (Righteous Babe Records)

Live At The Cafe CarpeA digital download, Live At The Cafe Carpe brings the veteran Milwaukee songwriter and activist together with sibling violin and cello duo Monique and Chauntee Ross also adding harmonies for a collection of old, recent and new material along with some choice covers, recorded at the venue where he began playing as a youngster thirty years earlier.

Sweeping strings open the dreamy first track ‘Don’t You Ever Change’, a co-write with John Sieger, as the album proceeds through a further seventeen numbers, the second up being the itchy blues ‘You Are The Only One’ and, by contrast, the hushed, minimal fingerpicked ‘Are You Listening’ title track, from which also comes the strings-swathed metronmic rhythmed ‘It Can Get You By’ and the sparse, discordant fiddle and spooked drum patter of ‘The Details’.

The first cover comes with ‘Ingrid Bergman’, one of the lost Woody Guthrie songs resurrected by Billy Bragg, accompanied here by pizzicato cello and fiddle, to be followed by another co-write, ‘Kids In The Square’, with Tim Gearan, originally from 2009’s Letters from a Flying Machine. And then the second cover, a husky-voiced strummed guitar and fiddle reading of ‘Bicycle’ from The Jayhawks’ 2008 Ready For The Flood. A number that’s figured in his live set for some time’ but previously never on disc, is Iron and Wine’s ‘Trapeze Swinger’ while the fourth cover, and crowd singalong set closer, is Daniel Johnston’s ‘Devil Town’ which deftly showcases the girls’ harmonies, while two other co-writes in the final stretch are the all-new ‘Everything Is Ending’, an achingly lovely, fiddle-coloured collaboration with J.T. Nero, and, with Tim Fagan, also from 2017’s Are You Listening, the choppy, sawing fiddle of the bluesy ‘Sebastian’.

Elsewhere there’s the fingerpicked ‘Who’s Gonna Love You Now’ and, with an amusing introduction, ‘Fools Errand’ from Another World , the Bruce Cockburn-ish ‘Trempealeau’ and the reflective, regret-stained almost samba rhythm ‘What Else Was It’ both from Silver Ladder and, as far as I can tell, two previously unrecorded numbers, the Petty-like ‘Red Rose Motel’ co-write with John Statz, the brushed snares chug of the true story ‘I Had This Friend And He Was Dying’,

Despite having released something like fifteen albums, along with his Redbird collaboration with Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault and David Goodrich, Mulvey remains something of a still somewhat unknown figure , and as such this serves as both a warm compensation for fans deprived of his physical live presence for now and a useful introduction to newcomers. Not to mention a desire to hear more from the sisters themselves.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘You Are The Only One’ – live:



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