Folk music has never been known to sit out tumultuous times. Whether with its poignant lyrics or acoustic presentation, it's involved and, often, emblematic of the concerns of its time.
The work of Peter Mulvey is no different. On Sept. 6, the Ani DiFranco-produced artist delivered a career’s worth of poignant words and concerns over a 90-minute set inside the 9th Ward at Babeville, all while connecting with a crowd now navigating through a searing societal divide.
For Mulvey—who recorded last year’s “Are You Listening” in DiFranco’s home studio in New Orleans, and will open shows on the Buffalo native’s September tour dates—his acerbic material and raspy delivery played well with the night’s intimate gathering. Armed with his Martin acoustic and evocative tracks like “Who Else Was It,” the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter expertly touched on items like fractured relationships, spiritual contradictions and the inability to process unthinkable atrocities.
The latter shone through on “Take Down Your Flag,” which remembers the victims of the 2015 shooting at the AME Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and offers direction for the state’s waving confederate flag amid tragedy. With every morose chord, Mulvey’s sincerity shone through, a characteristic prevalent throughout his entire performance.
And whether served with a sly grin on the conversational and absurdist “Jesus Wants to Take Your Guns Away,” his tribute to Righteous Babe artist Anais Mitchell on “Out of Pawn,” or his beautiful take on the traditional folk classic “Oh Shenandoah,” Mulvey handled all with a poet’s touch while delivering with a grinding musician’s fervor.
Opening the show for Mulvey was Geneseo artist, Mike Brown. Over his stripped-down set of forthcoming songs from his next album, the grizzly Brown delighted early arrivals with new tracks “Starting to Hurt” and the multi-guitar toggle of “Songs for Seven Fingers.”
Peter Mulvey with Mike Brown, Sept. 6 in the 9th Ward at Babeville.