Thursday, October 2, 2008

William Puck Merenda.

There was no surprise for me in seeing Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda at the Bela Fleck concert last night. Ruth, the daughter of fiddle master and Ulster County favorite Jay Ungar, and Mike, long-ago established themslevs as anchors of the Hudson Valley and national traditional-acoustic-edgey-jam scene, with their band The Mammals, which also features Tao-Rodriguez Seeger, grandson of Pete Seeger.

Ruth tears it up on the fiddle and Mike, like Bela, can beat the heck out of that banjo. Ruth and Mike were joined at the show by their baby son, whose got a great name, William Puck Merenda, who is a very cute kid, and seemed to be having just about as much fun out in the lounge a Bela as having on stage. But he just goes by Will.

Ruth and Mike will be playing Unison Arts Center in New Palts in November, with their duo, Mike and Ruthy. They gave me a copy of their new CD, which you'll be hearing more about soon.

I asked Mike if he had any thoughts on his fellow banjo player Bela, and he hesitated, not wanting to use any cliches in his description. But then he told me this wonderful story about hanging out with Bela and a bunch of others on Bela's front porch, at his home in Nashville, which has a porch swing, just playing a bunch of tunes.

Bela at the time was producing a record by The Duhks, a group of young musicians from Canada whose music is a first-cousin to that of The Mammals. In fact, the two groups have shared stages in the past under the monikor of "Platypus." Too much!

Anyway, Mike painted a nice picture of the group just hanging out, jamming. And then he mentions, at the end, that oh yeah, bluegrass legend Peter Rowan was there too.

Thanks Mike and Ruth. See you at Unison.

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