Sounds Local: Mark Mulcahy to perform at Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Saturday

  • Mark Mulcahy has released his fifth album — a departure from his first four — and will perform some of the songs at Shea Theater on Saturday. Contributed photo

  • Sheryl Hunter

For The Recorder
Thursday, November 09, 2017

It can take a long time to make an album, but in the case of Mark Mulcahy’s latest release, “The Possum in the Driveway,” it was a span of nine years. Mulcahy, who in addition to his acclaimed solo work is the lead singer for Polaris and Miracle Legion, has dealt with everything from a fire in one of the studios he was working in to a bout with measles in the making of his latest project.

He also took a lengthy hiatus from music in 2008 to devote time to his young children after the sudden death of his wife.

But this spring, “The Possum in the Driveway” was finally released and you can hear music from this album and more when Mulcahy and his band perform at Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Opening the show will be Greenfield resident Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr.

Mulcahy, who lives in Springfield, has said that the making of “The Possum in the Driveway” took years off his life, but he is pleased with the results.

“It was kind of a strange process,” Mulcahy said in a recent interview. “We went from one studio to the next to the next — and it wasn’t a band thing. It was mostly me and Ken (Maiuri) and Scott (Amore) the producer. We were always doing something by never finishing anything.”

Mulcahy said that Amore, the producer, worked on the album even during the period when the singer had put music on the back burner. Local musician and multi-instrumentalist Maiuri, who has worked with Mulcahy for many years, played guitar and drums on the much- delayed album. Once he was ready to get back to work after the time off with his family, Mulcahy said he considered releasing the album that would become “The Possum in the Driveway,” but then had second thoughts.

“I didn’t do anything for a few years, and when I was finally going to try something again, I thought it might be better to make a record that was up-to-date,” he said. “I wanted to make a record of what I was doing right at that moment.”

He enlisted the help of a wide ranging group of local musicians, and recorded one song each day to make the process move along quickly. The result was “Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You,” released in 2013 — a collection of impressive jangly pop songs that make it easy to understand why Mulcahy has made fans of fellow musicians, like Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) and Thom Yorke (Radiohead).

After that project, Mulcahy spent some time revisiting his past work. First, there was a tour with Polaris, the fictional band that he created and wrote music for that appeared on the 1990s Nickelodeon kids show “The Adventures of Pete and Pete.” That was followed by a Miracle Legion reunion, a band Mulcahy had formed in the early 1980s, while living in New Haven, Conn. The band had a strong cult following, but split up in 1996 following legal troubles with its record label. In 2016, they mounted an extensive tour and released a live album, “Annulment,” this past spring.

Mulcahy finally got around to releasing “The Possum in the Driveway,” his fifth solo album, in April.

“The Possum in the Driveway” is a departure from the type of pop-rock music that we have come to expect from Mulcahy. On this album, Amore places a strong emphasis on Mulcahy’s vocals, and while the guitar sound dominated his previous work, it takes a backseat here as Amore enlists trumpets, flutes, organs, electric piano and other instrumentation.

The disc opens with a stark dreamy tune called “Stuck on Something Else,” and from there we hear tunes like “I Am the Number 13,” with its menacing bossa nova beat and the jazzy “Geraldine,” which finds Mulcahy crooning over a saxophone part. But, while the album is stylistically all over the place, it’s a cohesive collection of songs that has won widespread critical acclaim, including a piece in The New Yorker magazine.

When asked if he set out to make a different sounding album, Mulcahy hesitated before answering.

“The only thing I ended up doing with that record, which I haven’t done with all my other records, is really try hard to make a certain sound,” he said. “Maybe just because I learned a little bit more about making records, I made it with some part of my brain that I didn’t know that I had.”

In recent years, Mulcahy has spent so much time out on the road touring with Polaris and Miracle Legion that he cut back on performing in support of this new album.

When “The Possum in the Driveway” was first released, he played a few shows, including one at the Parlor Room in Northampton. There, he gathered all the musicians who had played on the album and performed it in its entirety. But that’s been it. He will take to the road this month with a new band for his first solo tour in three years, but there will only be seven dates. Mulcahy will mount a full-scale tour next year, after the release of another album he is currently finishing work on.

“I have been doing those other things, so I haven’t had an opportunity to play the music that is under my own name,” said Mulcahy about the brief tour. “I just wanted to do a few shows, as I was getting itchy about playing the new record and some stuff I haven’t played in a long time. I want to do something that I don’t normally do — whatever that’s going to be. I hope it’s a good night of music.”

Advanced tickets are $17 and available at: www.signaturessoundspresents or www.sheatheater.org. they are $20 at the door. This is an all-ages show at The Shea at 71 Avenue A in Turners Falls.