Just a guy with his guitar – that's all you really need to make great music, right? If that guy happens to be Peter Mulvey the answer is a resounding YES!
Mulvey had already recorded all but one of the songs on Notes from Elsewhere on his other eight albums with fuller orchestrations. But that's not the way Mulvey performs tunes live or the way he originally wrote them, so he decided to, "sit down in good rooms in front of good mics run by good engineers, and run through them a few times, a few different ways." His renditions all share a similar rhythmic fingerprint. He emphasizes the song's sideways movement – they all shimmy as they move forward through their melodies and chord patterns. Mulvey's lyrics are far more sophisticated than merely "I lub you a million ways…" he invokes similes, metaphors and even quotes from other literary works to get his points across. It's nice to have something to wrap your mind around while your body boogies.
The seventeen songs display not only his songwriting prowess, but also Mulvey's serious guitar-slinging chops. The opening guitar lines of the first song on the CD, "Shirt" demonstrates Mulvey's solid fingerpicking coupled with his intelligent use of open tunings. On "Better Way to Go" Mulvey uses a "call and response" style that alternates between funky-cool riffs and open string chords. A non-standard open tuning gives his guitar a lower bass fundamental that grounds the bottom end. Notes from Elsewhere serves as a primer on modern alternate-tuning folk guitar. Mulvey's consummate command of acoustic guitar techniques reminds me of another great acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter, Vance Gilbert.
After the first listen I loaded Notes from Elsewhere into my i-Tunes library. Peter Mulvey's songs and performance style are so direct that you'll get him instantly, but like all great art, to fully appreciate his artistry requires multiple exposures. I'm looking forward to the experience.