Silver Ladder is an auditory shot in the arm from veteran touring songwriter Peter Mulvey. Produced by the indomitable Chuck Prophet, it is a lean, muscular collection of tightly constructed songs, leavening Mulvey’s tendency toward ruminative and yearning acoustic songs with a dose of sharp-witted, punchy rock and roll.
After a turbulent stretch in his personal life left him at sea, Mulvey decided to write his way out of it: “I’ve been through it. I bet you have too,” he said, “but there are times in life when you turn a corner and suddenly everything is simple: let’s make some songs, people! Let’s play!” Committing to writing one song a week relieved him of the precious, self-involved artist’s question, What Do I Have To Say? The songs came flooding out over the weeks and months, and within a year he had more than enough for a new record.
Reaching out to Chuck Prophet was meant to continue shaking himself loose. The two had met only once, at a gig. After Prophet agreed to produce, Peter flew to Los Angeles to meet the band of complete strangers Chuck had assembled, and within hours they were tracking tunes. David Kemper, Bob Dylan’s drummer on the road and in the studio, made up the rhythm section with Tom Freund (Ben Harper) on upright bass. Chuck and his Mission Express guitarist James DePrato provided the electric guitar fireworks, and Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) supplied touches of harmony vocal and violin. Aidan Hawken (Highwater Rising, The Quiet Kind) provided textures unheard on Mulvey’s past fifteen records: celeste, Chamberlin, Mellotron.
From its first track, Silver Ladder brims with confidence and grit. From the unapologetic rock of ‘Sympathies’ to the starkly beautiful ‘Trempealeau’, from the conspiratorial swagger of ‘Lies You Forgot You Told’ to the joyous release of ‘Back in the Wind’, Silver Ladder is the work of an artist in his prime. After nine sharp songs, the record ends with a vigorous left turn: the swampy groove of ‘Copenhagen Airport’ at first seems to be an instrumental, until its simple two-line lyric delivers a universal jolt of recognition. Then the vertiginous sweep of ‘If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him’ is offset by the concise, piercing coda, ‘Landfall’.
Silver Ladder is an artistic rebirth for Mulvey, the work of a poet who has discovered his inner rock-and-roller, a man who has been through the eye of the needle and come through it with a haul of songs to spark and encourage his fellow humans.
“His voice feels like fine old leather, and his guitar sounds like it’s on steroids… a superb technician…” The Boston Globe
“Peter Mulvey is consistently the most original and dynamic of the US singer-songwriters to tour these shores…
A phenomenal performer with huge energy, a quick-fire, quirky take on life, and an extraordinary guitar style… a joy to see.” The Irish Times
“The subtle power of his voice, a husky, hushed baritone… understated, at once sophisticated and intimate… as cover-worthy as Randy Newman, Elvis Costello and Dar Williams.” The Washington Post
Artist’s website: www.petermulvey.com
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