Peter Mulvey

LIVE: Peter Mulvey @ Jammin' Java - 10/4/12

“Long distance bike rides are a terrible, terrible idea,” Peter Mulvey told the Jammin’ Java audience Thursday night. He should know; he’s coming to the end of his sixth annual, 14-city bike tour, in which he arrives at every show on a very cool looking German-made recumbent bike. “I’d like to thank you for living in a flat place,” he added.

Mulvey is an engaging performer, wonderful singer, and impressive guitar player, all of which made for a very entertaining show on Thursday. Mixing old and new material with a great array of covers throughout his 20 songs, Mulvey covered a lot of ground and had his audience spellbound.

His latest album, The Good Stuff is a collection of what he calls “the great American songbook;” in addition to classic American artists like Bobby Charles and Thelonious Monk, Mulvey adds modern songwriters such as Tom Waits and Joe Henry. Mulvey performed his interpretations of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” and the Duke Ellington staple “Mood Indigo,” but kept the rest of the covers a surprise. His version of Waits’ “Jockey Full of Bourbon” (not the Waits song that appears on The Good Stuff, actually) sounded like John Hammond’s recent version but with darker vocal delivery and superior guitar work. Mulvey also threw in a cover of Randy Newman’s “Sigmund Freud’s Impersonation of Albert Einstein” after telling the audience how the statue of Christopher Columbus at Union Station reminded him of Newman’s song “Great Nations of Europe.”

TO DO LIST: Peter Mulvey @ Jammin' Java TONIGHT!!!

Many musicians have written about getting “in the van” to head out on tour, and by and large they don’t make it sound like a pleasant experience. Perhaps they should roll out on a $3,500 German-made black HP Velotechnik Grasshopper foldable touring bike, as that’s Peter Mulvey’s choice of ride, and it sounds like he’s having a fun time. Traveling around the country on his bike, Mulvey is, in his own words, “turning American into a European Socialist dystopia one folksinger at a time.” He’ll ride his bike into town this evening and do his best to communize Jammin’ Java. (Alright, in point of fact he’s riding from Union Station, but still…)

Originally from Wisconsin, Mulvey spent time honing his skills in Boston subways (as did Tracy Chapman before him). He now has more than a dozen albums under this belt, ranging from contemporary folk to acoustic rock to an all-instrumental album with longtime collaborator David Goodrich.

On his latest album, The Good Stuff, Mulvey focuses on a wide array of covers, from Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk to Tom Waits and Joe Henry. The songs are all linked by Mulvey’s fantastic ability with an acoustic guitar, which seems to be tuned a different way on every song. (His website’s discography lists the tunings for each song, which has no doubt caused many a guitar player to say “wait….what?”)

His original material is fantastic as well, particularly 2007’s solo acoustic Notes From Elsewhere, which best reflects his live performances – witty, insightful songs sung with one of the best voices this side of Leonard Cohen.