A provincial purist might suggest that being the finest alt-country band in a New England seacoast town like Portland, Maine, is a modest achievement. "Try Austin or Nashville and get back to me," might be the attitude.
A quick listen to Portland's Mallett Brothers Band, though, would melt said purist's ears. A sextet featuring world-class chops, vocals and songwriting, the Mallett Brothers could quickly establish themselves in any musical community they deign to visit. Indeed, the band's chemistry is so fluidly intuitive that it seems almost predetermined.
Wally Wenzel, Nate Soule, Luke and Will Mallett, Nick Leen and Brian Higgins make up the band - and all of them seem to play 200 instruments and harmonize like beer-happy angels. It's odd, then, that before the Mallett Brothers Band formed, none of the musicians had displayed any particular affinity for country music.
Nonetheless, after playing together for just over a year, and producing two superb albums, the self-titled debut and "Low Down," they steamrollered the top categories at the 2011 Portland Phoenix's Best Music Awards, winning Best Local Act, Best Live Act, and Best Local Album.
Prior to an appearance Friday at Groton's Side Pocket Cafe for the weekly Blue Collar Happy Hour, Luke Mallett talked a bit about the band.
On how six guys from Maine, who had separately and together been in punk, metal, funk and hip-hop groups - even a "death lounge act" - managed to coalesce into an alt-country/rock freight train:
"It was something we all grew into. I personally spent 12 years in a hip-hop group before this project got up and going. We've got a pretty diverse group of musicians all thrown together, all coming from different projects and genres, but somehow, once we were all in a room together, the music came naturally. By the time we had played a bunch of shows and finished the first record, we had embraced it completely."
On the band's reaction to sweeping the big trophies in the 2011 Portland Phoenix Music Awards:
"It was huge motivation for us. We had put a lot into the band at that point in time, sacrificing day jobs and weekends and hours and hours in the studio. It is nice to have a sense of validity, but it's almost even better sometimes to see the faces in the crowd while we're playing. People really seem to enjoy themselves, which helps us do the same."
On how to harness the quantifiable New England momentum and spread the word:
"The plan for us has always stayed the same. Keep moving further, keep playing more and more shows, keep selling more records, keep traveling further and further. It's been fantastic to find that we've been included in playlists and radio in places like Texas and Oregon on the complete other side of the country from our home base. It's got us hungry, we plan on striking while the iron is hot. Coming soon to a town near you."
In a 2011 guide to the hottest bachelors in each of the 50 states, Cosmopolitan magazine selected the band's Will Mallett as their choice for Maine. Very cool - for Will. Which publications, then, would brother Luke suggest might feature the other band dudes as centerfolds?
"Nick Leen would be on the cover of Bass Master magazine, Nate Soule would fit nicely on the cover of Mustache Monthly, Brian Higgins is a shoe-in for the Civil War Reenactment Digest, Wally Wenzel is the top model in The Flannel Gentleman, and I myself would love to get a page in Cowboy Hat Quarterly."
The Mallett Brothers Band, Blue Collar Happy Hour, 7 p.m. Friday, Side Pocket Cafe, 1066 Poquonnock Road, Groton; free; (860) 445-1556.
Maybe the most remarkable thing about the two Mallett brothers who make up The Mallett Brother's Band is that they're so different. Luke rocks long blonde locks, an unruly beard, a straw cowboy hat sitting overtop engulfing aviators. He's gregarious, with a deep and growling voice, but also harbors a slight hunch to his shoulders, like a guy who's just the slightest bit uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Will's downright ginger, more tightly clipped, a crooner who's in charge of the pretty songs this country-rock band plays as engagingly as the barnburners. Yeah, he was in that Cosmo thing, too (as in Cosmopolitan, the gal mag).
Heck, Luke moonlights as a rapper. Will looks like his cheeks would turn bright red after the first rhyme.
But, watching the two of them front their six-piece living inferno up on stage at Sullivan Hall, down in the Big City, as part of the CMJ Music Marathon, or during the release party for the brand-new Low Down at a packed Port City Music Hall, they certainly looked like they were of a singular purpose. Side by side, they are the twin suns around which the rest of the band so easily spins: Nate Soule ripping guitar solos to their right, Wally Wenzel seeming to open a vein on the dobro to their left. Will, especially, loves to turn around and face Nick Leen on the bass and Brian Higgins on the drums, firing them up and getting them involved.
This band was built for stadium shows, big honking affairs with pyrotechnics and animatronics.
Talking with Luke, though, conversation usually runs to how much he enjoys the country up in Gray; the quieter life. As amped as they might get for a big show, it's hard to take the Sebec out of these boys (And you should do your research online to find that this is the second Mallett Brothers Band from Sebec — dad David and uncle Neil were a cool duo in their teen years, traveling with Hal Lone Pine and his son Lenny Breau.) Of course, that's what lends them their authenticity. When they sing about being low down, about Ford F-150s, about potatoes and farm implements, you can believe it because it's not a put-on or an act. People are drawn to that kind of thing nowadays, living in a world that seems to get more material every day.
I am not a reviewer. I have noted this on several occasions, as I have a hard time putting my thoughts into a format that makes sense to people, outside of my own head. But sometimes there is a spurt of albums released at one time that just makes you want to scream at people to make them aware of the awesomeness that they are more than likely missing.
This is one of those albums.
My first introduction for this album, was the music video for the album's title track "Low Down", which surpassed anything on their self titled previous effort. Now, that's arguably a pretty strong intro to an album. This also left some lofty goals for the rest of album, which I hadn't heard yet.
Honestly, I enjoyed their first album, quite a bit more than most of my peers. So when I finally received the album, I expected the track "Low Down" to be the stand out, and everything else would be on the same level as their last album. And honestly I only thought this because I heard the two Mallett Bros. albums only within a couple months of each other.
What I found was an eclectic set of ear candy that surpassed my expectations. It turns out this album maintained the road set it's example track, "Low Down" (the song). The album ranges from acoustic riff rock openers like "Benny" to solid banjo fronted tracks like "Born Cryin'" that draw you into the album to see where their music will go next. But overall it's the soulfulness in the voices of the Mallett Bros (Will & Luke) that makes the songs unique to the band.
This album will undoubtedly be in my Top Albums of 2011 list.
I will play a couple of tracks by them in this weeks upcoming episode. So stay tuned.
If you would like to hear some tracks from their previous album, check out episode 115 of The Americana Rock Mix right HERE.
Will Mallett is accustomed to attracting attention for his music, but not so much for his good looks. That changed this week when the November issue of Cosmopolitan came out with its annual hottest bachelors issue. The magazine features Mallett as the most eligible guy from Maine.
Read about what Maine's hottest bachelor Will Mallett had to say in the current issue of Cosmo: www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/bachelors-2011/bachelors-2011-maine
The Mallet Brothers Band is on tour promoting its lastest CD, "Low Down." The band's next Portland Portland show is scheduled Nov. 11 at Empire Dine and Dance.
"When they called it was a huge surprise," said Mallett, a member of The Mallett Brothers Band, which he describes as "grungy, country rock." Mallett, the son of Maine songwriter David Mallett, knew he'd been nominated. "But I didn't think I'd get it," he said.
Jessica Roberts of Portland nominated the ginger-haired, guitar-playing, singer/songwriter.
"I heard about (the nomination process) through another friend and Will immediately came to mind," Roberts said. "He's obviously attractive, but he's a talented musician and, more importantly, he cares about everyone in his life."
In his profile in Cosmo, Mallett says that his celebrity crush is Penelope Cruz and that he considers sundresses to be the "hottest girl getup."
Mallett learned in May that he was Cosmo's pick for Maine, but he was asked to keep the news quiet. In June, he went to the Hamptons for a photo shoot with the other bachelors.
"I was playing a gig in Dover, N.H., the night before," Mallett said. "And I had to be in the Hamptons at 7 a.m."
He recruited a friend to drive through the night to get him to the oceanfront mansion on time.
In a prepared statement, Cosmo's Editor-in-Chief Kate White said: "We've found men from every part of the country who are perfect boyfriend material -- fun, sexy, nice, and full of personality. We're delighted to introduce our readers to this year's group."
Through Sunday, Cosmo is accepting online votes for the hottest of the hot bachelors. The 10 bachelors who get the most votes will be named semifinalists. A panel of Cosmo editors will pick one of the 10 to be the magazine's Bachelor of the Year and award him $10,000.
The top bachelor will be announced Oct. 18 during the annual Cosmo Bachelor Party at Arena in New York City.
Two nights later, The Mallet Brothers will play with six other Maine bands at the CMJ Showcase at Sullivan Hall in New York City.
After gobbling up accolades like sunflower seeds, the mighty Mallett Brothers Band is ready to drop the follow-up to its dynamite debut. It's maybe the most anticipated local record of the year, so if you're bracing for a sophomore slump, don't. "Low Down" burns hot when the six country players turn it up, but just as easily delivers a heart-heavy lament.
The best part of this dust-covered country, though, is its unmistakable honesty. Scour the songs for layered hipster nuance, and you'll later be smoking cloves wondering what just blew past you. Instead, everything's big on "Low Down" -- banjos, drums and sadness all in one hearty blast.
Crank the windows down for Will Mallett and Nate Soule's lightning banjo and mandolin duel in "Born Cryin,'" a tune that was designed to accompany a drive along a rushing New England river. In "Don't Need You," a sleepy bass lifts the tortured longing in the chorus, and Soule's sharp electric jabs give the ballad its terse punctuation. Cowboy boot heels will be stomping wherever this tour rolls when the band breaks out "Benny," with Luke Mallett offering his more gnarled vocals over beautifully building tension.
"Low Down" closes with "Think I'd Feel Fine," a slow sing-a-long for the sweat to dry that espouses simple appreciation as the path to aging gracefully. It's a nice reminder that the band isn't pilfering tricks or gimmicks, just offering up its strong, distinctly American voice.
Mike Olcott is a freelance writer.
Not only was Doc Watson the best guitarist of his era, but he also expanded the horizons of so many players, in a way that belied his ultra-traditional Deep Gap, North Carolina, upbringing. He liked to refer to his repertoire as "traditional plus," as in: traditional music of the Blue Ridge Mountains, plus influences from just about every player he ever came across.
If you're looking for something to label the Mallett Brothers Band, I'd personally go with "traditional plus." Especially on their second album, Low Down, the Malletts have found a way to build a foundation with traditional instruments and songwriting, and have erected a relatively contemporary home by bringing in roots-rock, country, jam, and loads of other influences that make for an album that is both absolutely of this time and place, as well as all kinds of old time.
It's hard to pin down, but there's a feeling here that wasn't present on their debut record, like they've fully inhabited the music now, where before they weren't completely comfortable in their "country" duds (more than one of them had previous gigs in hip-hop bands, after all).
You hear it right off the bat, with the opening, and excellent, "Low Down," a roots-rock anthem that's easy to embrace (so good, actually, that I would have put it later in the album; the other songs have a hard time living up to it). Despite some wash in the beginning, where the mix of instruments doesn't have quite enough clarity, the song cuts to the quick almost immediately. Luke Mallett's lead vocal is the voice of the everyman, full of real passion and a mix of discontent and wonder. "You're never gonna be happy, in this simple kind of life/Can't live on the low down," he sings to the girl who, inevitably, has gone away. "Wanna live in the city/Want to taste the dreams/Wanna live in a big house/Wanna live with means."
What's great is that it's not entirely clear who wants these things, in the end, or which parts. It's the push and pull of the excitement of the big city and the comfort of the country home. Sometimes you've got to leave the nest to get what you want, but it's hard to clear your head of the open fields, the fresh food, the warmth of a woodstove.
These are hard times, and the Malletts both know it and aren't going to be held down by it.
"Born Cryin'" is an ultra-quick bluegrass nod with Nate Soule playing the role of fiddle-player with his electric guitar, warning that "the love you've been looking for won't be found 'round here." "Broke 'n' Driftin'" is more bluesy, with a repeating acoustic guitar run and a phased-out electric guitar from Wally Wenzel charging through the low end. Its message? "There ain't nobody gonna wanna help me now."
That sounds a lot like Doc Watson's famous line: "Ain't nobody in the whole world gonna help you carry that load."
But defiance reigns in the end. "Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down," they implore, with lots of Wenzel dobro and a whispery, closely mic'd vocal from Will Mallett, who's joined by Luke in the chorus for what's probably their best vocal pairing.
And, anyway, they "Don't Need You," as they declare in a song where Will puts some grit in his delivery (in general, his vocals are superior here to the last album) and lets the backing instruments rise into the gaps between lines of the verse, before delivering a chorus you can really believe and get behind. Some might find Soule's electric guitar break a little "slick," but, as on other tunes here, it's a nod to a jam aesthetic in line with the likes of Widespread Panic or, yes, the Allmans, and you can really rock out to it.
From the rockabilly swagger of "Good with the Better," where Nick Leen owns a 1-2-3 bass walk and drummer Brian Higgins backs him to the finish, to the silliness they allow to creep back into the finishing "Think I'd Feel Fine" ("I know I'm the potatoes in your hot beef stew"), this band projects a self-assuredness that's infectious in a world where it's becoming harder and harder to find things that are real and genuine.
The Mallett Brothers Band are as real as the dirt on the bottoms of your shoes and they have no problem living like "it's your last day on earth." Can you say the same?
Girls, Girls—no need to fight! There are plenty of The Mallett Brothers Band to go around. What do you get when you mix bourbon, country music, and six talented musicians together? The Mallet Brother's Band. After spending the night dancing my heart out at Portland's Port City Music Hall to the sweet jams of these fellas, I found it necessary to share the electrifying vibe I felt, and a little bit about these gents, with you all.
Something in the air, perhaps, but the forces that be on the Maine music scene have come together to forge an authentic, rip-roarin' alt-country band. The Mallett Brothers Band has a strong-as-an-ox debut record on its hands, tearing through a Bull Moose near you. It's no accident, and its barely serendipity. These guys like hanging out, and were born to pick up and play. As they roam around this good land, it's worthwhile to catch a show, or at least pick up the record to see what everybody's kicking up dust about.
a Portland-based alternative country group poised to become one of the most popular bands in Maine. The band’s self-titled debut album is the No. 1 local album at Bull Moose Music, and it’s No. 11 overall on the Bull Moose national charts.
Generally, you see that kind of gravitational pull to a band when there is songwriting with a vision, and charisma to boot, and the Mallett Brothers Band deliver on both of those counts ably.
The Sound of Place: The Mallett Brothers Band
By Lana Cook
Bringing you far away from the pavement and onto the back dirt roads of America, the Mallett Brothers Band’s country rock style emerges from the slow grown woods of Maine. But their songs of longing, displacement, and the simple kind of life resonate far beyond state lines.
This spring, the band swept the Portland Phoenix’s Best Music Polls winning the Best Local Act, Best Live Act, and Best Local Album awards for their self-titled first album. Principal songwriters and brothers Luke and Will Mallett exude natural showmanship and stage presence, drawing the band loyal crowds across New England. From their momentum thus far, The Mallett Brothers Band are proving they are a band to watch. They just released their second album Low Down, which is available on their website and iTunes. On Low Down, the Mallett Brothers Band show great range. From crawling, creaking country songs to high energy barroom singalongs, the band naturally shifts styles without sacrificing a genuine earnestness that shines throughout the album. From the melodic “Paper Cut” to the infectious “Good with the Better,” Low Down is a roots-rock album made from the salt of the earth.
The Orris asked bandmate Will Mallett about the band’s influences and plans:
How did you get into playing music?
“I grew up in a musical family so my brother and I have been around music for as long as we could breathe. Our father is one of the most talented songwriters that we’re aware of, so having that influence growing up really made a difference; and there were always a lot of guitars around the house so we started messing around playing as soon as we could open a guitar case.”
What’s your songwriting process like?
“For me it’s just like fishing. Spend a lot of time sitting with a guitar, playing whatever comes up, and sometimes you get a good bite. If it’s good enough you just latch onto it and go through the hard labor of getting it in to shore, which would be concocting lyrics, etc. But for me the song is always about that first hint of something, feeling that tug and knowing you’ve got something. “
What inspires you? Who influences you?
“Everything and everything. Mostly, musically, anything old, because I feel like the old-timers know more than we do; but music is emotional communication so anything that would inspire or influence somebody emotionally influences me musically instead. “
Who else should we check out?
“There’s a ridiculous awesome hidden music scene in Portland, Maine, that I’m psyched to be a part of. For fear of leaving out any buddies I won’t bother with specifics, but keep an eye on Portland and you’ll come across some pretty incredible music. “
What’s next for The Mallett Brothers Band?
“The Good Lord only knows, but I hope involves a Trans Am.
Only half kidding. We have a new album coming out in October that we’ve been working pretty hard on, and we’ll be touring all over the place non-stop so come out and hang with us if you get the chance. “