Mike and Ruthy
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Mike and Ruthy

Woodstock, New York, United States | SELF | AFM

Woodstock, New York, United States | SELF | AFM
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




"“Mike + Ruthy have become a force to be reckoned with in the acoustic music world""

Quite different than Mike + Ruthy’s recent foray into pop, “THE NYC EP” is a welcome return to their folk roots. Bold banjos rule, fiery fiddles run wild, and an expansive sound that threatens to raise the rafters prevails.

The husband-and-wife team of Mike Merenda and Ruthy Unger have become a force to be reckoned with in the acoustic music world, and this proves their mettle. The spark here was Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora, who heads the Guthrie archive in Mount Kisco — presenting them with the lyrics and melody to Woody’s “My New York City.” They went to Brooklyn to record it — and didn’t stop with just one song.

There is a brief visit to the 1950’s with “Oh Mama.” “Romance in the Dark” is steeped in the blues with an aching vocal from Ruthy. The wild-and-wooly “Toast My Memory” sports a deep backbeat and a dual vocal full of conviction and purpose. Though its title refers to a great city, this is music of the mountains, a joyous romp, though, recorded in Brooklyn, will find it’s home in the hills. It’s a lovely record that compels you to play it over and over again. If there’s one fault with this record, it’s that it’s too short, Bring on the full-length version. please.

Visit http://mikeandruthy.com/ - Daily Freeman

"“Extraordinary . . . some of the most exquisitely expressive vocals you will hear in the roots music field""

Partners in life as well as the late and much lamented by many, early 21stcentury band ‘The
Mammals,’ Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar are now a duo that is three albums, plus this brand new seven track e.p, into a second career that has at least as much quality as their former one. Had I actually heard it at the time, their previous album, 2010s, ‘Million to One’ could well have made my top twenty albums of that year, so is well worth investigating, as are it’s two predecessors!
This excellent e.p. contains six tremendous songs plus a short thirty second banjo/bass instrumental break that shows off Mike Merenda’s tremendously speedy banjo playing to full effect. Mike himself plays guitar, banjo, harmonica and farfisa as well as vocals on these songs whilst Ruthy plays guitar, resophonic uke, fiddle and some of the most exquisitely expressive vocals you
will hear in the roots music field.
Three of the songs are written by Mike, one by Ruthy, one by Lillian Green and one of the most beautiful songs you will hear, certainly this year, that was originally written by the great Woody
Guthrie, but with some additional music added by Mike and Ruthy. This is the extraordinary My New York City, with it’s perfectly atmospheric steel guitar, played by Charlie Rose, Ruthy’s gorgeous vocals never having sounded better and Mike’s harmonies giving full rein to the haunting element of this lovely song. Had they tried to emulate this perfectly weighted, arranged and performed tale they would have to have failed, but fortunately they chose to change tack on the remainder of the songs ensuring that anyone hearing this e.p will wish it had been a full album, such is the quality and diversity. Lillian Green’s Romance in the dark has a late night jazzy bluesy feel with the sparse instrumentation and Ruthy’s expressive, atmospheric vocals being perfectly suited to the genre and in all probability any other genre you can think of! Mike’s On my way home has a‘front porch’ feel
as does the duet Toast my memory. The Ruthy penned Oh Mama, again has a bluesy feel with some nice sax playing by Chris Miller and the final song Raise your glasses high has a traditional country feel, with atmospheric fiddle, on an excellent duet by this talented duo.
It’s always difficult to judge an e.p. but on the evidence of what is contained on this disc and their previous work, had it been a full album it would probably have been awarded an extra star.
Diversity can often be a double edged sword, with many albums just appearing to lack direction, but Mike and Ruthy have the talent to keep their diversity of styles and still give a nice flow to their recordings. - AmericanrootsUK.com

""Quite a few folks have done this 'set-Woody's-lyrics-to-music thing' over the past couple decades. I'm not sure anyone's ever done it better than this.""

"Quite a few folks have done this 'set-Woody's-lyrics-to-music thing' over the past couple decades. I'm not sure anyone's ever done it better than this." - Peter Blackstock (co-founder of No Depression)

"“When clever lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and two hearts combine”"

Folk duo Mike + Ruthy are back again with their newest release, The NYC EP, featuring a combination of thoughtful lyrics and beautiful harmonies that capture the essence of American music. In the two years since Performer last featured Mike + Ruthy, the duo has continued to evolve and refine their sound into this summer’s must-hear acoustic album.

The EP starts off with a nostalgic arrangement of the Woody Guthrie song “My New York City.” From there they kick up the tempo with “On My Way Home,” with its driving banjo backdrop and lyrics full of lost faith and homesickness. Mike + Ruthy draw the listener in with the sultry number “Romance in the Dark,” complete with an accompanying harmonica and lyrics like “I get such a thrill when he presses his fingertips upon my lips and he begs me to please, please be still.” Other noteworthy tracks include “Oh Mama,” with powerful vocals from Ruthy and the smart addition of saxophone to round out the bluesy sound, as well as “Raise Your Glasses High” featuring seamless harmonies and beautiful fiddle work to close out the record.

Reminiscent of lemonade and front porches, Mike + Ruthy’s The NYC EP is an excellent addition to any summer soundtrack. - Performer Magazine 2012

""Down-Home Folk Spirit . . . Remarkably Eclectic Songwriting""

"Ungar and Merenda showcase a natural chemistry . . . shifting between catchy pop tunes, bluesy rock numbers, lush soul songs and hushed folk ballads. [Million to One] is a milestone achievement for the New York-based duo, reflecting significant growth in their remarkably eclectic songwriting." - The Wire

""Like the Rolling Stones on their country side trips""

Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar met, fell in love, and married while they were members of the Mammals, a folk band that was based in old-time music, but stretched the boundaries of the genre with an approach that added bluegrass, rock, and blues to the template. They were mostly acoustic, but eventually added a drummer and started moving toward mainstream pop. When the Mammals went on permanent hiatus, Mike and Ruthy stepped out as a duo and, with Million to One, their third album, they indulge their more folk-rock tendencies, at times even rocking out, albeit with a folky restraint. "Who's Who" sounds like the Rolling Stones on one of their country side trips. Ruthy's fiddle plays credible lead guitar lines, and the duo's "Who's who" refrain echoes the "who hoo" from "Sympathy for the Devil." Mike spews out a Dylanesque lyric full of incomprehensible word salad. Other strong rockers include "End of Time," a straightforward investigation of a relationship hovering between pleasure and pain with the duo delivering a whispered vocal while a decidedly un-country pedal steel guitar gently weeps in the background; "Covered," a thumping blues with a hint of gospel and fine harmony vocals; and "Be the Boss," a 4/4 rocker with ebullient call-and-response vocals and a muddy piano mixed in to give the track a vintage sound. Most of the songs deal with love in its various guises and show off the duo's winning lyrical and melodic style. "All the Way Down" is a jazzy soft rock tune with warm harmonies, humorous lyrics, and cheerful chiming guitar. "On the Road" is about the life of a traveling band, but without the usual rock angst. Its cheerful pedal steel and the sunny vocals give the tune a feel of contented melancholy. The quiet vocals on "That's What I Call Love" are almost lost in the mix, but the rippling guitars and the long sustained notes of the electric bass complement Ruthy's moody muddled vocal. Grace notes from a glockenspiel and the syncopated thump of a bass drum drive "Summer Sun." It wraps up the album adding an exotic hint of Middle Eastern modality to its undulating rhythm. - Allmusic.com

""Mike + Ruthy’s ‘Million to One’ great, gorgeous""

By David Malachowski

ARTIST: Mike + Ruthy

ALBUM: “Million To One” (Humble Abode Music)

Folk music is a tricky thing — there is an inherent need to be aware of the past and traditions — but if you move forward, like any real artist is prone to do, skeptical eyebrow-raising ensues, with the incessant questioning, “is this folk?” There is a fine line between respecting the past and moving forward, and those that do push ahead are sometimes ostracized, until, of course, time passes and it too becomes traditional.

With “Million To One,” the fine line is obliterated, and a new one drawn, as Mike + Ruthy bravely, and more importantly, successfully bring folk music to a new place, while holding on to the timeless traditions of the of the genre, namely, the telling of a story.

Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar met in 1998. A New Hampshire native, Merenda had played rock and ska while Woodstock fiddle Unger leaned towards roots. After joining in music and marriage, they’ve played along side Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews and John Melloncamp, and released several of their CDs, as well as with the Mammals.

Recorded close by at the renewed, bustling Dreamland Studios, as well as the long gone and much missed Allaire Studios, “Million To One” was produced by Mike + Ruthy and recorded and mixed by Frank Moscowitz. They are featured along with bassist Jose Ayerve and drum shaman Craig Santiago, with pedal steel by Charlie Rose and piano and organ from Ken Maiuri, fiddle giant Jay Ungar even chimed in.

Here the sound is edgy but not over-the-top. “End of Time” is 1960s rock, while with “Covered” they sing about a world “covered in sin” in a bluesy style. “Rise” would be at home on a Mary Chapin-Carpenter record, and “Be the Boss” echoes early electric Dylan. They return to their roots with “As My Eyes Run Wild,” as pure folk as you can get while in the title track “Million To One,” Merenda sings “All of my worries are gone” and you believe him. There’s no doubt this radio ready track could so be a hit.

This is a great, gorgeous record, and that it comes from nearby makes it even better.

Visit www.mikeandruthy.com.

Mike + Ruthy and friends will appear at the Tinker Street Cinema Sunday at 8:30 p.m. for the Music at the Movies series. “Million to One” is set for release on Tuesday.

David Malachowski is a guitarist, producer and freelance journalist living in Woodstock. The Freeman seeks CDs by local artists or artists appearing locally for review. Please send all CDs (please no CD-Rs or demo CDs) to Daily Freeman c/o Preview, 79 Hurley Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401. - Kingston Freeman

"A Concert Unlike Any I Had Ever Seen Before"

The Honeymoon Agenda

When Ruthy Ungar took the stage with a fiddle under her chin, a bow in her hand, and her eight-month-old son in a Snugli on her back, I knew this was going to be a concert unlike any I had ever seen before. I knew this was going to be an evening that celebrated youth and love and striving against the tremendous odds of a world that has been calloused to such things.

I took my wife to Godfrey Daniels Folk Society in Bethlehem, PA unaware that we were going to witness a songwriting duo whose gentle humor, genuine affection for each other and passion for the music emanated effortlessly from their fingertips and their voices. I just wanted to see some good music with her, and when I went to Mike and Ruthy's webpage, I was instantly taken by the bright, warm, jangling chords of their song "All the Time." So, off to Bethlehem we went, and were very glad we did.

My wife and I, being a husband and wife, have a soft spot in our hearts for husband and wife duos. Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar are our new favorite husband and wife duo. They are so deliciously in love-- and not in the cloying, make-you-vomit way. It's obvious in every sideways glance, every laugh they share at some private memory, every harmony. They're self-effacing, which is a remarkable achievement considering how talented they are (your head will spin if you get the chance to watch Mike play the banjo) and they welcome you into their world in a way that makes you believe the concert is just for you-- that you are watching them in your basement, or theirs.

Of course, the fact that Godfrey Daniels looks like a basement probably doesn't hurt.

The highlight of the evening was definitely Ruthy fiddling away and bouncing on her knees to pacify her at-times-confused, at-times-smiling, at-times-drooling little child on her back. As I sat there in the dark, holding my wife around her shoulder, I wanted to stand up and cheer for this other young couple-- who are not only trying to make it as artists and as parents and as lovers and as friends-- they're trying to help us make it, too. By offering us sweet, unassuming music from sweet, unassuming musicians, they are extending the life-raft, the olive-branch, the kind hand to us all. If they are the Pied Pipers of this new age, well, I'm coming, and I want to bring my friends, too.


Come one, come all.

Fall in love again. - Puddnheadnathan.blogspot.com

""Descended From the Entire Folk Tradition Itself""

"Every decade has its state-of-the-art folk-rock band. This decade's is the Mammals, most often noted for featuring Pete Seeger's grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and fiddler Jay Ungar's daughter Ruth. But the band's secret threat is songwriter Michael Merenda, seemingly descended not just from one famous folkie, but the entire folk tradition itself. His songs range from sensitive, breathy ballads to audibly grinning political broadsides."
-Jeff Rosenberg, Willamette Week
- Willamette Week

"The Honeymoon Agenda"

When most newlyweds take their honeymoons, they jet off to some sunny, all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. Not the Mammals’ Michael and Ruth Ungar Merenda. After receiving the wedding gift of recording time from producer Jose Ayerve, the young couple opted to spend their postnuptials at home in West Hurley making their first album as a duo. Be elated they did: This simply beautiful, organically crafted (and well-titled) session references the Mammals’ neo-string band tack and folk roots (fiddler and guitarist Ruthy is the daughter of famed fiddler Jay Ungar) and also brings a trough of more contemporary influences (brilliant covers of Tom Waits, Etta James, Bob Dylan, even Hella’s Aaron Ross).

This disc is a 40-minute expression of love, one that works on several levels. There’s the obvious tier of the couple’s love for each other: the near whisper of guitarist/banjoist Mike’s “All the Time” or Ruthy’s vocal caressing of the Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” which almost makes us blush and find somewhere else to be. Then there’s the duo’s amorous reverence for the folk tradition, which to them mandates reinventing—not coddling—the classics; Mike’s arrangement of “I’m Going to Get My Baby Out of Jail” overflows with dirty Neil Young guitars. But peel back another layer to find a love for the act of music-making itself and the warming hearth it represents for these folk-reared kids; Ruthy’s stepmom, Molly Mason, contributes bass to “Beg and Borrow,” the romping ode of an artist scraping by. Here’s hoping the couple’s anniversaries yield more records this good. www.mikeandruthy.com.

CD Review: Mike & Ruthy, The Honeymoon Agenda
by Peter Aaron, January 25, 2008 - Chronogram

""Rejoice Because Mike and Ruthy Have Arrived.""

Ever wish that Simon and Garfunkel were still out playing? Or that Art Garfunkel was replaced by Fiona Apple? Well, rejoice because Mike and Ruthy have arrived.

Their album "The Honeymoon Agenda," is full of covers — Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan all have their works featured.

But the best songs on the album are the ones written by Mike and Ruthy Merenda. Is there a higher compliment than to have your own works trump those by such legendary artists?

The first song on the album, "All the Time," is perhaps the best song of them all.

Mike and Ruthy,
"The Honeymoon Agenda,"
By Ben Bulkeley - seacoastonline.com

""Folk-Inflected and Highly Melodic Pop""

Lovers of Lazy Susan and fans of similarly folk-inflected and highly melodic pop will find a great deal to like here. Formerly of the Mammals, this husband-and-wife duo shine particularly brightly on Len Chandler’s “I’m Going to Get My Baby Out of Jail,” Aaron Ross’s monumentally tuneful “Whimsical Hysterical Suburban,” and Mike Merenda’s own “For This Love.” The album is almost evenly divided between originals and canny covers—particularly telling are their spartan arrangements of Tom Waits’s “Long Way Home” and Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” And “Diamond Ring Rag,” is a classic instrumental original. In sum, this is an album of many excellences. (Francis DiMenno)

http://www.thenoise-boston.com/content/blogcategory/3/17/ - The Noise - Boston

""Veteran Brilliance""

"Their sublimely twined voices evoke silken clouds stretching low across a sky . . . Mike and Ruthy’s musicianship bears the mark of veteran brilliance" - Mike Wolf

- Chronogram - December 2009

"“Gorgeous Acoustic Music Which Exceeds a Genre Such as Folk or Singer/Songwriter""

“Gorgeous acoustic music which exceeds a genre such as folk or singer/songwriter.  Two perfectly connected musicians who belong to the absolute top.”  - Moors Magazine - Moors Magazine - The Netherlands

""Songs with Meaning""

"Part of a wave of new bands that are hip and edgy, but embrace acoustic instruments, songs with stories, songs with meaning, not just techno-blabber aimed at an instant-gratification society that shuns depth."
- John Barry of the Poughkeepsie Journal

""The Best Songwriters of [Their] Generation""

"Ungar is the daughter of Jay Ungar and Lyn Hardy, two musicians who have kept American folk traditions stoked. Ungar spent her childhood amidst all manner of string instruments . . . She met songwriter Michael Merenda in the late 90's and, after hearing him perform an original tune, asked him to play it again, whereupon she promptly sang a part in perfect harmony. Thus began a professional and romantic relationship... Ungar is a sensational singer... Merenda is one of the best songwriters of his generation - literate, political, melodic, alternately angry and satirical and sensual."
- Michael Simmons - High Times

"“Poetry that singer-songwriters have been fighting to achieve since the 1960s.”"

“Poetry that singer-songwriters have been fighting to achieve since the 1960s.”

- Sarah Meador, Rambles.net


Mike + Ruthy:
The NYC EP (2012)
Million to One (2010)
Waltz of the Chickadee (2009)
The Honeymoon Agenda (2008)

The Mammals:
Boot-leg 6-Pack (2006)
Departure (2006)
Rock That Babe (2004)
Evolver (2002)
Born Live (2001)

Michael Merenda:
Quiver (2007)
Election Day (2004)
Trapped in the Valley (2000)

Ruth Ungar:
Your Heart is a Glorious Machine, Somtymes Why (2008)
Sometymes Why, Sometymes Why (2005)
Jukebox (2002)



Thousands of concerts across tens-of-thousands of miles and Ruth Ungar & Mike Merenda have emerged as one of acoustic America’s most revered musical duos.

Mike: “We do this Pete Seeger song, ‘Oh Had I a Golden Thread,” and by way of introduction we often acknowledge Pete for all his work in helping people to believe in humanity. After a concert recently a fan approached us and said, ‘You know, you guys do that too.‘ I was elated.“

If ever ‘Hope’ and ‘Inspiration’ were embodied by the sound of two human beings, it’s the sound of Mike + Ruthy. As story-tellers, as singers, as poets, as parents (they tour with their two small children), Mike + Ruthy are harbingers of an American cultural awakening, one that values honesty and togetherness, one that prefers grit to glitz and one that - in the face of an information super-highway - revels in the old-fashioned telling of a story.

Two guitars, a fiddle, a banjo, a ukulele, a stool with a glass of water and a few harmonicas elegantly surround a single microphone. Nothing is plugged in as Mike + Ruthy curl around that one mic like you would a fire pit on a chilly night, their voices swirl and rise like the fire smoke itself.

The intimacy of their performance is more akin to a night you once had listening to music around a friend’s kitchen table. Their songs are divine, their delivery breath-taking, but it’s the charm which they bring to the stage that can not be overstated.

Ruthy: “After a recent show a fan approached me and said, “Wow! I feel like I know your life story!”

Summed up nicely by New York arts & culture monthly, Chronogram, “Mike + Ruthy, who’ve been on the music-making road together for over a decade, shine both individually and as a two-voiced entity; he’s a folkie with a pop heart full of catchy choruses; she’s a vocal hotshot bringing the house down armed with only a resophonic ukulele. Together, they go a long way toward restoring love’s good name.”

“Some of the best songwriting of their generation.” - LA Weekly

“Easily a new favorite.” - Daytrotter

“Mike + Ruthy are a national treasure.” - Anais Mitchell

“Mike + Ruthy are carrying the torch for simple, heartfelt acoustic music . . .  the rustic kind without any smoothing out of the edges with a direct line back to the Carter Family via Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and even the Byrds"  - Maverick Magazine, UK

“Extraordinary . . . some of the most exquisitely expressive vocals you will hear in the roots music field" -AmericanRootsUK.com

Recent performances:

Four Corners Folk Festival, Pagosa Springs, CO
Bearsville Theater w/ Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Woodstock, NY
Mohonk Mountain House w/ Natalie Merchant, New Paltz, NY
NY Harvest Festival & Freedom Fair w/ Pete Seeger, Monticello, NY
The Egg w/ David Bromberg, Albany, NY
Brooklyn College w/ Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Brooklyn, NY