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Peter Mulvey & SistaStrings Release 'Live at the Cafe Carpe'


Peter Mulvey has been a songwriter, raconteur and almost-poet since before he can remember.

Peter Mulvey & SistaStrings Release 'Live at the Cafe Carpe'

Peter Mulvey has been a songwriter, raconteur and almost-poet since before he can remember. He started playing Milwaukee's Cafe Carpe when he was a kid, and 30 years later returned to record Peter Mulvey with SistaStrings: Live at the Cafe Carpe, out tomorrow on Righteous Babe Records. The album features 18 songs recorded over two nights in January 2020. Mulvey collaborated with SistaStrings, comprised of sisters Monique and Chauntee Ross on cello and violin, respectively, and drummer Nathan Kilen, on the project. The Bluegrass Situation offered a new listen today, premiering "What Else Was It."

The songs on the record are a mix of a few of Mulvey's older songs, a few of his newer co-writes, some unreleased tunes, and Woody Guthrie, Iron and Wine, Gary Louris and Mark Olson and Daniel Johnston covers. Live at the Cafe Carpe has received additional early praise from Folk Radio UK and, and hometown attention from both Radio Milwaukee and WUWM's Lake Effect.

At its core, this album is about a band that found each other and a home. As Mulvey says, "It's about a couple of magic nights SistaStrings and I spent, crammed into the tiny back room of a listening room called the Cafe Carpe, jammed full of people, joyfully playing the songs we'd learned over our few years of becoming an ensemble, all happily unaware that the world was already changing, that because of the pandemic already underway the entire world of listening rooms and intimate live audiences was about to disappear for who-knows how long."

Peter and fellow Milwaukeeans SistaStrings met a few years ago and clicked instantly, later adding drummer Nathan Kilen. The sound immediately made sense: Chauntee and Monique play with tremendous intuition, technical ability, and (impossible to teach) spaciousness. Kilen's tiny drum kit (which he developed to travel with Mulvey on his bicycle tours) rounds the quartet out perfectly.

Raised working-class Catholic on the Northwest side of Milwaukee, Mulvey studied abroad for a semester in Ireland and immediately began cutting classes to busk on Grafton Street in Dublin and hitchhike through the country. Back stateside, he spent a couple of years gigging in the Midwest before moving to Boston, where he returned to busking on the subway and playing coffeehouses. In the eighteen records he's released since then, Mulvey has performed thousands of times, including opening for luminaries such as Ani DiFranco, Emmylou Harris, and Chuck Prophet, embarked on an annual autumn tour by bicycle and hosted his own boutique music festival-the Lamplighter Sessions, in Boston and Wisconsin. It's clear Mulvey never stops.

SistaStrings combines a classical background with R&B and a touch of gospel influence that culminates in a vibey, lush sound. Between them, they have soloed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Madison Symphony Orchestra and played in some of the most storied venues in the country, including Carnegie Hall. They have played with Malik Yusef and opened for Black Violin, Bone Thugs 'N Harmony, Lupe Fiasco, BJ The Chicago Kid, and The Roots. Outside of playing music venues, SistaStrings conducts school assemblies to encourage young people to pursue the arts.

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