It’s easy to overlook the grimy underside of small town America, but take away the idyllic Norman Rockwell visage and sometimes the only thing left is a mean spirit. When Peter Mulvey sat down with fellow songwriter John Statz to pen “Old Men Drinking Seagram’s,” they ended up sketching a portrait of a few such towns they’d had the “dubious pleasure of knowing.” In its delivery, it's a pretty picture, but “Old Men Drinking Seagram’s” pulls no punches in a way that will leave listeners largely nodding in disappointed agreement or missing the point altogether; the latter, most likely, antagonists pulled straight from the song. “Often, our daily life is a search for the optimal balance between honesty and kindness,” says Mulvey. “In art, sometimes the gloves come off.”
“Old Men Drinking Seagram’s” is the latest single from Mulvey’s upcoming album with SistaStrings—cellist and vocalist Monique Ross and violinist and vocalist Chauntee Ross—entitled Love Is The Only Thing. The song’s lilting, major-key melody is perfectly countered by nondescript, creepy background noise—borderline horror movie foley—courtesy of Chauntee, Monique, and drummer Nathan Kilan, who rounds out the album’s quartet of musicians. The end result is a delightful tune that leaves an uneasy feeling, rightfully so, in the hearts and minds of listeners. Like Mulvey says, “Sometimes the gloves come off.”
Fans can listen to “Old Men Drinking Seagram’s” now at this link, check out the previously-released single “You and (Everybody Else),” and pre-order or pre-save Love Is The Only Thing ahead of its August 12th release via Righteous Babe Records right here. For even more Peter Mulvey & SistaStrings, check out their Live at the Café Carpe album at this link.
Mulvey has a number of solo dates—as well as shows with Mark Erelli—coming up and SistaStrings are on the road all summer playing as part of Allison Russell’s and Brandi Carlile’s bands, including Carlile’s show at Madison Square Garden in October. The Rosses also performed with both artists at the 2022 Grammy Awards. A full list of tour dates for both Mulvey and SistaStrings can be found below.
More About Love Is The Only Thing: The bright light of family illuminates Love Is The Only Thing and all that went into making it. Its existence hinges on the way we take care of each other, from its fan-supported funding to the sanctuary of Café Carpe to the blood sisterhood of the Rosses to Mulvey’s newfound fatherhood. “This album is basically a happy family song, then a song about how f*cked up things are, then a family song, then a song about how f*cked up things are,” Mulvey laughs. And making Love Is The Only Thing at such a tumultuous time in history reinforced Mulvey’s and SistaStrings’ role as activists just as much as musicians. “Finding refuge and rejuvenation in these songs with this group of musicians was healing and personally some sort of mission statement for why we even make music in the first place,” Chauntee remembers.
Love Is The Only Thing explores loss, tension, and the love that sees us through it. Folk classic “Shenandoah” longs for a kinder America, while “Old Men Drinking Seagram’s” is a snapshot of a small town full of hate. “Soft Animal” offers tender sensuality, while “On the Eve of the Inaugural” finds the narrator turning his care to a baby in a stranger’s car. “Song for Michael Brown” is a humble plea for compassion for Brown and for all of us living with the threat of violence and hate. Some songs are more focused on the loneliness of the pandemic and its flipside of love and togetherness. The newly-released “You and (Everyone Else)” addresses the pandemic loneliness and fear for others' safety, while “Five Hundred Days” promises a happy reunion. That promise is fulfilled on “Early Summer of ‘21,” a catchy song about a day when it’s safe to hug everybody, wait in line for tacos, and feel free again.
The record finishes with the title track, a Chuck Prophet cover. With jangly acoustic guitar, rousing drumming, bold strings, and an anthemic chorus, this is the sound of musicians having fun together. It’s also a reminder that it’s not easy to make a better world, but ultimately that work reveals our humanity. “Love is a hurting thing/ Oh, but love is the only thing anymore," Mulvey and SistaStrings belt out in the refrain. It’s then abundantly clear that the love songs and the protest songs have been about the same thing all along.
Love Is The Only Thing Tracklist:
O My Dear (the Demagogue)
Old Men Drinking Seagram’s
You and (Everybody Else)
Early Summer of ‘21
Five Hundred Days
On the Eve of the Inaugural
Pray for Rain
Song for Michael Brown
Love Is the Only Thing
Catch Peter Mulvey On Tour:
July 9-10 - New Bedford, MA - New Bedford Folk Festival
July 28 - Portsmouth, NH - Portsmouth Music Hall w/ Mark Erelli
July 29 - Brownfield, ME - Stone Mountain Arts Center w/ Mark Erelli
July 30 - Concord, NH - Capitol Center for the Arts w/ Mark Erelli
Aug. 18 - Sandwich, NH - John Davidson's Club Sandwich