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A Little Bit Of Everything

When we first listen to a band, our brain reflexively logs them under the most fitting genre masthead, waiting for the next time your itch for “noise-core goth rock” needs to be scratched. Rare are the bands that challenge the inexorable classification by playing whatever the hell they want. Take a gamble to overthrow the whole system by listening to New England’s wildly eclectic crew of genre rebels, The Mallett Brothers Band.

Out of Portland, Maine, the six-piece formed in 2009 and have been conjoined to the touring circuit ever since. With support slots with some heavy hitters like The Josh Abbot Band, Turnpike Troubadours, and Toby Keith, their efforts have garnered them consistent local acclaim as New England Music Awards’ Best Band in New England and with their most recent album, Land (2013), labeled as Best Album – and that’s only 2014. 

“We don’t really ever take any time off,” vocalist/guitarist Luke Mallett explains. “We’re out pretty much every single week; we do at least three or four shows a week. These long trips, we’ll go out for three or four weeks at a time. We’re lucky that New England’s been good to us and keeps us really really busy in between and that’s pretty much where all the gas money comes from.” 

It’s that kind of disciplined approach that lends to the maturity interwoven with the band’s country rock flair. 

Experience is a considerable source of that musical maturity as well, with each of the six members possessing an unexpected musical past. For example, Luke’s previous endeavors include a 12 year stint in a hip-hop group, while dobro player (and all around multi-faceted musician) Wally Wenzel and drummer Brian Higgins left their double bass punk thrashing for the whisky-soaked southern rock stylings of TMBB. Perhaps calling it southern rock is a blatant oxymoron, but you can’t deny the influence.

“We definitely can’t call ourselves southern rock because we are definitely not southern, but there’s a little bit of twang and there’s a little bit of rock and there’s a little bit of lots of other things,” Luke says. Make it easier on yourself and don’t pigeonhole them, because once you think you’ve got it figured out, the next track will throw you for a loop.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is being able to be versatile. We do a lot of acoustic shows, we can do a stripped-down show on a really tiny stage, or we can get on a huge stage with a light show and rock out. It’s nice to do a little bit of everything.” 

Still, with over decades of experience combined, this group of alt-rockers continues to grow, with the crux of that growth stemming from their onstage presence.

“We’ve been a band for about 5 years, and I think the live show affected how we did everything else. The first album is very different from the second, which is even more different from the third. A lot of that had to do with the live show and the evolution of what we were doing on stage. If the energy of the album matches the energy of your live show, then you’re doing something right.” 

As for plans on a new album, Luke says, “We have officially booked time in October. So we will actually be recording our new album on either side of our Texas tour. We’re gonna start doing some recording in Maine, then we’re gonna stop in Atlanta on our way home and we’re gonna try to finish the album there. It would be great if we could have it done by Christmas, but we just gotta kind of dive into it and see what happens.”

As Maine grows colder with the onset of fall, TMBB begins its migration toward the West for a new thread of shows. More importantly: to Texas, a state all members are said to be in love with. 

“Maine is very different, but it’s a lot similar than people realize. There are a lot of parallels even though the landscape is very different. There are a lot of attitudes that are the same here and there. We’re pretty drawn to the history as well. We drove that road from Amarillo to Austin one day, and we were driving forever and ever in the high plains. We spent the whole drive listening to a hardcore history broadcast, and just being there and looking at that landscape and listening to what happened…it was amazing. Very spiritual place.” 

And that love has clearly been reciprocated. “It’s cool for us to go out on the road and have people sitting there to say, ‘I knew you guys were coming, I saw you on the website, I went and checked out your videos, I already know my favorite song…’ They do their research and they get ready for you and that doesn’t happen everywhere we go. So I think that’s kind of an ongoing thing in Arkansas and Texas; people prepare for you to show up. They just really love live music.”

Submit one Sunday evening to retire on the legendary stomping grounds of Gruene Hall and observe TMBB, while they’re still hovering under the radar. Abandon the impending woes of Monday morning with a tranquil fall night, frosty beer in hand, and some genuinely soulful country rock as your soundtrack. Legend has it that bassist Nick Leen once stomped the sole off of his boot during a live show. If that’s not swaying enough, then you’re just being stubborn. 

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Portland's Mallett Brothers Band on the road to stardom

The fall tour, which concludes this week, is the band’s most ambitious yet, with 21 dates since Oct. 6.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

It was eight hours before the gig on a warm Texas afternoon, and the thing Luke Mallett wanted most was a nap.

 

click image to enlarge

The Mallett Brothers Band performs Sept. 28 at the Harvest Dance, a benefit for Freeport's Wolf Neck Farm.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Nate Soule, a guitarist with the Mallet Brothers Band, gets his guitar ready for a gig Friday at The Kraken Bar in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Photos by Jeremy M. Lange/for the Press Herald

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS BELOW

He and his bandmates had just consumed a heaping pile of barbecue from one of the best barbecue places in Austin. At midnight, they were scheduled to headline at the Continental Club, one of the city’s best places for live music.

It was an important gig in an important town, and Luke needed to be at his best. “I just need to get some rest,” he said. “I feel like I’m about to explode.”

The Mallett Brothers Band has been on the road four weeks, setting out from Portland as far west as Colorado, 21 dates in all since a spirited send-off at Portland’s Big Easy on Oct. 6.

They’ll be home soon, but first the band plays another key gig Tuesday night at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.

For the Malletts – brothers Luke and Will, and bandmates Nate Soule, Wally Wenzel, Nick Leen and Brian Higgins – it’s another steppingstone in their quest to become a self-sustaining band with a national following. The Portland-based alt-country band has released three CDs to national audiences, played 150 dates a year for the past two years, and logged about 60,000 miles in 18 months on its 15-passenger Ford van.

They’re doing fine, making music and playing for appreciative crowds. But they want more.

The fall road trip, which concludes this week, is the band’s most ambitious tour yet. It was the band’s first trip to Denver, and its second time to Austin. The long trip is part of the band’s strategy to establish an audience in cities outside New England. The only way to do that is to hit the road, play gigs and then go back a few months later. “It’s all about building relationships,” said Soule, one of the band’s guitarists and its de facto manager.

It’s grueling, expensive and tiring.

“That’s always the goal, to get in front of people,” Luke Mallett said. “It seems like we’re always working toward that second trip, the chance to go back. When we finish this tour, we’ll start planning for another. We know we are going to try to do another run sooner than later. The idea is not to take too long, because you don’t want people to forget about you. I think it’s safe to say we’re all in love with Texas, and we definitely want to do Colorado again.”

The late-fall and early-winter calendars are filled with closer-to-home dates, which put gas in the tank and keep the band fed.

In addition to covering a wide geographical swath of the country, the current tour is important because the band booked shows in several rooms regarded as desirable places to play. The Continental Club in Austin and the Bluebird in Nashville are premier music rooms in cities known for their music. The Malletts also played the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., and Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, both high-profile clubs with reputations for hiring good bands.

“We’ve been hitting it hard for two, two-and-a-half years,” Soule said. “This is the longest tour we’ve done and also the easiest one we’ve booked. I think that’s a good sign.”

Most likely, it means people know who they are and like them enough to book them.

In addition to planning the next outing, the band’s immediate goal is finding a management team that can help take it to the next level, which means more high-profile and better-paying shows across the country. It’s the difference between being a regional band trying to break through and a national band with an established reputation. It’s the difference between taking a gig to pay the bills and being able to choose which gig to play.

It’s the difference between burning out and doing what you love because it’s fun and rewarding.

It’s the difference between juggling jobs between tours and concentrating solely on music.

“When we get back to Portland, we’re going to take a couple-month break from the road. I’m constantly behind the computer screen, pushing to see what’s out there and who will bite. It’s fishing. I think we have pretty good bait, but it’s still fishing,” Soule said. “We’re ready for the next thing.”

NASHVILLE CATS, SORT OF

Tuesday’s gig in Nashville is important for another reason. The band will share the stage with Luke and Will’s dad, the Maine folksinger and songwriter Dave Mallett. For Dave Mallett, the Bluebird show marks the first time he has headlined in Nashville since he uprooted his family in the 1990s and moved back to Maine to raise his kids.

Luke and Will, ages 30 and 28, respectively, were born in Maine and raised in Nashville. Their folks moved to Nashville in 1986 when their father was making his way as a singer and songwriter. The elder Mallett, who lives in Sebec, is best known for the “Garden Song.” His songs have been recorded by Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and John Denver, among others.

The family moved back to Maine in 1996. Luke was 12 and Will was 10 when they returned north.

Their earliest musical memories are in Nashville. They remember hanging out at the house, where their father entertained a range of Nashville musicians and songwriters. Hal Ketchum was over all the time, Bela Fleck lived down the street. All their childhood friends were children of musicians with similar family stories.

“It was a very musical place, and guitars were always being played,” Will recalled. “I got the bug like my dad. If there is one there, I’ve got to play it.”

The boys were aware that music was the prime directive during the Nashville years, Dave Mallett said. “They were aware of all the instruments and me coming and going to shows, and bringing home wads of cash and them counting it on the couch. ... Those were very busy times. I had a writing room downstairs, and I had writers over all the time. We would sit and write, and the kids would be there. I think for them, it was an assimilation of the whole process. They always traveled to gigs with me throughout, and learned what it takes to focus in and do a show.”

The idea of playing with his father at the Bluebird is “a little surreal,” Will Mallett said. “There’s a few gigs on this trip that I am especially excited for, and the Bluebird is right at the top of the list. I try not to get too excited about this stuff. A gig is a gig. But the Bluebird is going to be great. It’s one of those venues where my dad would always play when we were growing up. So not only are we going to get to play there, but we’re playing with our dad.”

The Bluebird is not a big place. It seats about 90 people but is known as one of the best music clubs in America where songwriters can get exposure for their music.

Dave Mallett is as eager as his boys.

“I don’t think I’ve played the Bluebird in about 18 years, so, yes, I’m excited,” he said.

He had a hand in getting this gig for the band.

He is Facebook friends with the woman who books the club, and sent her a note suggesting she pay attention to the Mallett Brothers Band. She liked what she heard, and offered a gig – to Dave Mallett. “She wrote me back said, ‘You should play the Bluebird and they should open for you,’” Dave Mallett recalled. “So that’s what we’re doing.”

Luke Mallett said the band will play a quieter set than normal, out of deference to their dad. They don’t want to overwhelm the crowd with volume and force their dad to play loud to compete.

Dave Mallett laughed when he heard that, and noted that one of the things he likes most about the Mallett Brothers Band is its ability to play within a dynamic range from soft to very loud.

The Mallett Brothers Band has released three CDs, including this summer’s “Land.” The band has earned a lot of praise in the music press for its rootsy mix of rock and country. Among the things that make the Mallett Brothers unique is its range of influences, styles and musical attitudes.

“Land” confirms the Malletts' Southern roots. The recording is spiced with dobros, mandolins and lap steel. It has hints of bluegrass, and the brothers sing with a twang that suggests they are from anywhere but Maine.

On the other hand, they’re also endowed with a rock ’n’ roll spirit. Soule and Wenzel both play ripping electric guitars; Soule plays mostly a Stratocaster and Wenzel prefers a Telecaster.

Much of the band’s music is well-suited for mainstream country radio. This summer, they opened for country star Toby Keith in Bangor, and were perfectly comfortable on a big-stage setting. They’re also comfortable playing an acoustic set in an intimate, sit-down club, which is what they will do in Nashville on Tuesday.

Their current musical orientation seems a logical outcome given the music their father exposed them to and the music they gravitated toward as kids.

“As soon as they got to a certain age, they started leaning toward the pop stuff,” Dave Mallett said. “We had M.C. Hammer records in the house. We had ‘Thriller.’ We had Mr. Big. I was playing my stuff and the country stuff that I was trying to emulate. But they were very independent. Will fell into punk when he got into high school, and that’s all he listened to. He had headphones on all the time. Luke learned to hip-hop and rap. They were aware of the other stuff, but the other wasn’t their first choice.”

It wasn’t until sometime in the mid-2000s when Luke came home to Sebec one weekend and dug up an old PBS tape of his dad playing live that he displayed an inclination for the kind of music the band plays today. Will was away at Middlebury College in Vermont at the time, and coincidentally had been turned on by the acoustic renaissance.

At some point along the way, the brothers realized their musical tastes had merged. The band formed in 2010, and has been based in Portland since.

David Herring, executive director of the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation, where the Malletts played a benefit concert a few weeks before hitting the road, has been a fan for a few years. He likes what he calls the band’s “natural sound.” He appreciates that they seem to be having a good time on stage, and likes that the band plays music that people can dance to. “They just seem like really good guys who are having a good time,” he said.

COLLECTIVE APPROACH

The band has four songwriters, and both Will and Luke sing. That means it does not have a distinct sound or an easy-to-peg musical motif.

One of the benefits of this fall’s trip has been a few scheduled off days, which allowed for writing time. The band camped in a state park before arriving in Austin. They did some fishing and cooking, and a lot of writing. They also built studio time into their schedule in Nashville to further develop a few songs.

Generally, the band writes collectively. An individual will bring an idea – a lyric, a chord progression or a simple riff – that gets hashed out. The road encourages jam time, and the band takes full advantage, Will Mallett said.

“We have found that the road is very fruitful for writing songs,” he said. “We have a day off every once in a while, and we try to plan around that. When the guitars come out, we have pretty good luck writing. When we are home, there is stuff to do, interruptions and commitments. But when we are out there and have time without an agenda, it’s a really good time for the creative process.”

The road takes its toll. The Malletts all have lives outside of music. Just before the band left Maine for this tour, Luke Mallett got engaged. He’s eager to get back to his fiancee’s family horse farm in Gorham, where he helps out when he’s not on the road.

Soule marked his anniversary during this tour. Wenzel has a son he can’t wait to get home to see.

It sometimes appears like a glamorous life from the outside looking in, but being a road band requires a lot of work and sacrifice.

That’s something Dave Mallett, 62, learned many years ago. These days, he admits to living vicariously through his sons’ band. He was on the road when he was their age, but times were different. He never figured out how to support a band, which was always a goal. He took his kids with him on a lot of trips, but left them home a lot, too.

“I spent 10 years on the road, with just a bag and guitar. That was interesting, you know? They’ve made this commitment to go out as a six-piece and it’s obviously working,” Dave Mallett said. “They’re young and strong, and they’re doing what I always wanted to do. I’m very proud of them.”

These here lads is working class, y'all, 'n if'n ya doubt, just take a gander at the photos in the liner. Pure-dee sons of the sod and prairie dogs lookin' fer a…well, hell, actually, they hail from Maine not Wyoming, but if you think the mid-West is any wilder than Maine, then you ain't been there, buddy. Not surprising at all to me (a son of various small towns, Massachusetts) that such environs would yield an alt-roots ensemble like this one. Land starts with the entrancingly mellifluous Blue Ridge Parkway, a spirited folk shuffle featuring another of the Mallett clan, David, sitting in until Farmer's Tan kicks things up into a higher gear, rollicking like rockers just getting down to a serious weekend's heelkicking session after Friday workshift's end.

Will and Luke Mallett are sons of famed folker David Mallett—a singer-player-composer favored by Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, and many others—but, interestingly, it was bassist Nick Leen who actually caused the ensemble to form after crashing on Nick & Luke's couch, jamming with 'em between sleep sessions. That had to have been a happenstance etched in the stars 'cause every one of these six gents is a consummate musician and singer ('ceptin' Leen, who don't do no warblin'), tighter-than-tight pickers 'n grinners who bring forward a number of strains of Americana, from the Allman Bros. and Doobies at their early rip-roaringest up to cats like Colin Linden and Steve Dawson, over to Poco and David Bromberg, then back to Doc Watson and country's earliest genesis.

I'm dead serious. This is really fine music and has evoked yelps of delight from many critics coast to coast. In fact, I'll be shocked if The Mallett Bros. don't step to the head of the pack along with a number of barnburners currently holding sway. Land is their third disc but sounds like their 20th, well-aged, knowing, and 100% convincing. Haven't a clue who the trade-offs are in the lead vocals, as the liner notes don't elucidate (dang it!), but one of the cats possesses a gritty voice carrying tangs of one of my old faves: Ron Koss from Savage Grace (the 70s band, not the 80s punk/power/metal speedsters) mixed with a little Dennis Locorriere (Dr. Hook) and others. Regardless, this is a band aflame, people. There are great ballads and all that, but when they light into things with hooch 'n hellfire, ya better have yer asbestos overcoat handy.

 

An Independent Playlist for Independence Day
Jason Isbell, Aoife O'Donovan Among Favorites
Celebrating our country's independence is what the Fourth of July is all about. Here's a playlist of new songs from the last month or so, all from artists who know what it means to be independent. 

Jason Isbell's latest album, Southeastern, is already winning raves as one of the most satisfying Americana albums of the year. Although he has a lot to say after getting married and choosing sobriety, he does it in a way that's concise, poetic and easy to listen to. Although the whole album is worth a listen, my favorite track is "Different Days," about continuing to learn as you age.                                            ...........................                                                                                                                     In addition, bluegrass listeners will enjoy the Barefoot Movement's "Sheepherder," Big Country Bluegrass' "I'm Putting On My Leaving Shoes," Fletcher Bright and Bill Evans' "Yellow Barber," Betse Ellis' "Long Time to Get There" and The Mallett Brothers Band's "Blue Ridge Parkway", as well as Ivan Rosenberg's "Maryville Waltz," the Roys' "Gypsy Runaway Train" and Adam Steffey's "Chinquapin Hunting."

The Mallett Brothers Band – based out of Portland, ME, have been racking up the accolades wherever they go. With critical acclaim from No Depression and Dispatch, the six piece band knows when to push the musical envelope, and when to just sit back and let it simmer a little bit.

How do you classify them? Well, just like so many acts today – and I know that sounds like a broken record – you don’t. They definitely know how to rock out with the best of them, but there is also a definite Country layer to what they do, as well. That comes across in cuts like “All Kinds Of Crazy,” where it sounds like they have borrowed the spirit of the late Waylon Jennings. It’s definitely got a beat that “Hoss” would have appreciated, and vocally, the guys are dead on. Then, on “In The Fold,” member Wally Wenzel demonstrates a textbook way to play the dobro, helping to make the track a highlight.

Then, there’s the harder side of the band. “Little Bit Of Mud” and “Getaway Queen” show the guys can turn it up loud with the best of them, and “Farmer’s Tan,” – the lone instrumental, gives each member a chance to shine bright. They’ve got their musical bases covered, and I think you’re going to be hearing a lot out of these guys in the years to come!

Anybody who took a swing at European history in high school knows the dangers of patriotism — or, as the Continentals like to refer to it, nationalism. By identifying and rallying an "us," you're implicitly identifying and alienating a "them" (okay, maybe that's collegiate post-structuralism talking).

Us vs. Them can be a bad thing.

When shit goes down like last week, though, you can hardly blame people for focusing on "us." In times of chaos, we seek stability and comfort. Some of us are lucky enough to find that in our families and community.

Should you be among those relatively adrift, I suggest the Mallett Brothers Band as a surrogate. These guys know how to do family and community.

On their new and third full-length release, Land, they alternate between boozy and anthemic ballads and boozy and anthemic sing-along stomps, always providing plenty of opportunity for just about anybody to find a personal touchpoint.

Maybe you need "Somethin' to Lean On," fronted by Will Mallett and full of nostalgic mandolin, where he comes home to his best gal "cooking macaroni and cheese by the fireplace light" after there's been "a cold breeze going through my Chevrolet" (wait — I thought they were Ford men?). If you're even a touch sentimental, the chorus is irresistible, and drummer Brian Higgins brings in a tambourine late for a pick-me-up.

Nate Soule, who turns in excellent guitar work all over this album, trades fireplace light for the "dashboard light" in his "Goodnight" (and who doesn't like a Meatloaf reference?). It's like the country track that would have fit perfectly on the Singles soundtrack, with a hook that's catchy as hell and proof that Soule has upped his vocal game: "Get out of the Chevy and let's talk about why you gotta frown every time I come around."

But we were talking family. It ripples right through "In the Fold," where Luke Mallett takes lead vocals and is bolstered by sister Molly when it counts. Soule's slide guitar goes head to head with Wally Wentzel's dobro, one in each channel, and Luke implores, "please leave the heat on when you go, cuz it gets cold."

Family is hard to miss in the album-opening "Blue Ridge Parkway," too, with pops David Mallett backing Will in a surprisingly intimate, mostly acoustic number that features arresting harmonies in the chorus and a ripping Soule solo that follows the second go-round. Dang if it isn't a crisp two minutes and 23 seconds. Full-family performances are starting to become more commonplace locally — if you've missed them, hit up YouTube and find the performance they just posted from the Strand, in Rockland, last Saturday.

It's not all sunsets and longing look-backs, though. Luke, in particular, likes to have a good time. His "Farmer's Tan" opens with gritty, crunchy guitars and a driving backbeat. He's "been down in the dirt," he can "paint your home," and he's not afraid to go huge in the chorus and inspire you to raise your drink. It's not all the way Band Perry, but if you squint you can see the stage-side fireworks and strobes.

The single, "Little Bit of Mud," is hard-driving, too, and easy to see as a live favorite. "No GPS, don't need a map," Luke wails, "just a one-way trail and a case of Pabst." It may actually be against the rules to listen to this album without a PBR at hand. The "little bit of guitar" finish here is a nice touch.

And "Getaway Queen" is a lot of fun, a low-down country strut where Nick Leen's bass is everything and Higgins chimes in with a woodblock for atmosphere. They're on the run, but these Malletts ain't no outlaws: "Got a big old bag full of money, so we don't run out of gas/And I took it off these bad men, thought I could put it to better use." Of course, the gal takes off with everything in the end and there's a cool Pogues twinge to the instrumental break.

Heck, the closing "Piece of Land" is downright surf rock, a yeller with trade-off vocals and a fire-breathing solo from Soule. "You gotta be your own man," we're told, perhaps ironically, "and get a good job, save a couple of grand/You gotta get a piece of land."

But that doesn't mean you're on your own. With an album that should please fans of the long-form work especially, full of changing takes and unpredictable angles for a mainstream-oriented work, the Malletts have your back. ^

Hailing from Portland, Maine, The Mallett Brothers have hit the road hard over the last few years breaking out of the local scene to play venues from New Hampshire to Texas. Their collective experiences during that time inform their well-produced and tight third release.

No matter what style of Americana (can we just call it rock?) you like, the band tosses a winner your way.

From the soft sounds of the opener “Blue Ridge Parkway” telling the story of a hitchhiker who will be just fine (as long as he’s got his old hat) to the rock sounds of the woman-stealer who ultimately loses out to his “Getaway Queen” you’re covered.

Again, though, the theme running though the various styles here is the road.

Guitarist Nate Soule country-raps about the crazies on the road (Lipstick…what a trick…drivin’ like you’re whiskey-sick) to a backbeat that wouldn’t be out of place on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Second Helping’ album.

Will Mallett sings in “Take It Slow” that he will “only stick around for a minute or two and then down the road it’s the same ol’ blues”.

On "In the Fold", Brother Luke Mallett (yes, they’re David Mallett’s sons) “rides them horses like the wind, cross them hills into that never-end” backed by tasty dobro fills from Wally Wenzel.

The boot-stompin’ rhythm section of bassist Nick Leen and drummer Brian Higgins will have your foot blasting through your car floorboards on “Little Bit of Mud”.

Ultimately, the road warriors come back home to loved ones in the hit-in-waiting "Something to Lean On" and yearn (somewhat) to settle down with that "Piece of Land".

This album comes closest to their blistering live shows than their earlier releases and show a confident band ready for the next level. Don’t miss the trip.

PS...added bonus...those first 30 seconds of "Farmers Tan" makes for a great ringtone...just sayin'!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**** 1/2

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.

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. “

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 Mallett Brothers Band are a roots act on the rise. Playing bigger and better shows week after week, but still the type of gents who will come out after a show and raise a pint with you. Those are my kind of musicians. They have a fiery fierceness to their roots based music. A bunch of badass dudes making some badass tunes. Check out what Will Mallett has to say about the band and their involvement in this years Americana Festival.


1)      First and foremost, who are you, what do you do? That is, what band are you in or are you a solo artist, what have you guys been up to leading up to the festival, anything exciting we should all know about? Your chance for shameless self promotion…go!My name's Will Mallett, I'm in a band with five other guys called The Mallett Brothers Band. Two brothers, four other guys; we spend enough time in our van that we say we've all turned into van brothers at this point. We got started about four years ago and we've been hitting the road very very hard for the past two years or so. The response keeps getting better so we keep truckin'; we're gearing up for a pretty lengthy fall tour in October/November that will bring us out to Colorado, down through Texas, back up through Tennessee where we'll do some recording, and we have a boat load of gigs along the way. It's been a great summer so far, we opened up for the Allman Brothers Band and Toby Keith just in the past few weeks, so we've been staying busy, having fun, and we're very excited to be a part of the New England Americana Festival. We also have a new record we put out last spring called "Land" that's been moving pretty good and people seem to be digging.


2)      New England Americana and the Fest firmly plant their roots and morals in “community”. The event is a culmination of a community of musicians and artists that is going on all year. What does that community mean to you?Being a working musician can be a lonely endeavor at times, and there's something like a kinship that exists between bands, or it seems that way to me anyway. There are also a ton of bands that deserve to be heard, as a touring band we're fortunate enough to meet and play gigs with a lot of them. It's great. Swapping gigs, bringing bands to places they may have trouble getting a gig, in turn being helped out by other musicians in other areas, and just giving each other a little love on the old world wide web are really critical these days for all of us. Events like the New England Americana Fest that help foster this "we're all in this together" attitude are a real treat and help us all on our mission.

3)      Name a record that shaped you as a musician early on. What music initially made you want to sing, or pick up an instrument and make music?Luke and I's father, David Mallett, is a pretty well known singer/songwriter in some circles and is most definitely the primary inspiration for the two of us getting into music. There was a guitar or two on every couch we ever owned at all times. It drove our mom nuts but it's a good way to live. She's the best, by the way, and a very musical person who's always been supportive of everything other than guitars on her couch when she's trying to watch the news. Great people.Other than that a lot of our sound comes from the diversity of influences within the band. Our drummer was a strictly punk/metal drummer before he jumped on board with us; Nate and Wally on guitar have a crazy range of influences but there's a lot of Neil Young and Pink Floyd influence in their playing. So we're sort of a melting of all this stuff and a lot more. Older country, bluegrass and anything grimy or funky are all listened to pretty regularly in the van.


4)      What are you listening to now that you think folks should be aware of?I'll have to keep this to a minimum, but Eastbound Jesus, Eric Bettencourt, Joe Fletcher, Jake Hill & Deep Creek, Rustic Overtones, Paranoid Social Club, Old Soul, Chris Ross, North of Nashville, Anna Lombard and Trent Gay, Blind Owl Band, The Wheals, Coyote Kolb are all acts from this part of the world that we've been fortunate enough to share bills with and that are all world class. There are a ton more, so sorry to everyone I left out there... Other than that, the old masters. Guy Clark's new album is great. Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, Steve Earle, Waylon. A dude from Canada named Corb Lund is making some great music right now so check him out too. Be sure to pick up all my dad's records too because they're all killer and I'm not biased.5)      Music  festivals, in general,  are fairly well known for surprise sit ins, improvisational jams and collaborations. If you could see any two of this year’s acts collaborate on stage at this year’s NEA Festival, who would you like to see?Sarah Blacker and Coyote Kolb. Boom, do it guys!6)      Why is creating music important to you? Why do you pick up your instrument and write songs? Why do you play that dive bar on a Thursday night? What keeps you going?Music gives meaning to nothingness and philosophy is too much work.

Mallett Brothers Band is playing the Fest at 10:20 at Tommy Doyle's on Friday the 27th and the band is online at: http://mallettbrothersband.com/index/  

Turnpike Troubadours - Mallett Brothers Band -- Birchmere - Nov 6 2013

Mallett Brothers Band - From the lovely city of Portland, Maine comes this six-piece alt country band made up of two brothers and four other fine players. They have a rocking rhythm section and rotate among various acoustic and electric guitars along with the occasional lap style acoustic guitar played standing up. This was usually employed when the songs really rocked and the slide moves fit in perfectly. I enjoyed it much more than a steel guitar which can become too dominating and cloying if overdone. Of course, you could not dominate the speedy runs from the lead guitarist, unless you had the soundman cheating on your behalf, as he was flying. Particularly fun, was the point where one of the vocalists asked during a pause in a particularly fast rocking number if we wanted to see their two lead guitarists shred even faster than that? Of course, so they did. There were some slower cuts which offered nice contrast and still had plenty of heart and melody to keep the set moving forward. This was a solid and occasionally exciting 40 minutes here.
Turnpike Troubadours - This quintet has a strong fan base, well represented here tonight, and builds nicely on the opening set. They do not rock quite as much, but it is very close and they show plenty of pace and excitement when they want to turn it up. There slower numbers feature top notch vocal work and there is some violin in the mix to keep things interesting. The banjo comes out and again, does not dominate but fills in well with the rest of the standard instrumentation. This is accessible music, but well beyond cliche with a deep emotional groove established. They remind me a bit of an American Fairport Convention in that respect. They keep a firm hand on their sound and have the songs to make for great success. It was no surprise to see the positive response from the crowd and there was even some quality dancing in the back that fit the second stage at the Birchmere perfectly (this was a standing show in the main bar area). Good blood pumping music tonight!

Ridiculous observation of the night... The first band had a ratio of three baseball style caps, two cowboy hats and one hatless player. The second band (as shown above) had two cowboy hats, one cap, and two hatless players. I wonder if these percentages can work as a predictor for rock speed and volume in a band (say more caps, more rock). Of course, this is almost assuredly complete nonsense as the hard rocking lead guitarist in the first band was one of the cowboy hats, but at least gives me something to play with for future shows. I do like the mix as it removes the uniform component that some bands employ.