Buried deep underneath blankets of wooly southern rock, gritty songwriting and soaring odes to lost love, The Mallett Brothers are entrenched in the dense forests, majestic mountains and icy beaches of their Maine homeland. Their rock ‘n roll resides inside of a weathered and lived-in, rootsy Americana built by brothers Luke and Will Mallett and band. It’s that distinctive sound that’s helped them to share stages with both critical favorites like Drive-By Truckers, Shovels and Rope & The Felice Brothers and legends like Phish drummer and singer Jon Fishman (who will be hopping aboard the band’s spring tour this year), The Allman Brothers, and many more. Their new album, Vive L’Acadie (out June 15), is an ode to all things French-Canadian.
“Vive L’Acadie,” the title track, came out of a David Lynchian trip the band made to Fort Kent, Maine. “We were driving down the road on Main Street,” says Luke. “We turned on the radio and it was playing all these French versions of pop-country songs. It felt like we were in a different world. Later that night, an old man in a bar was yelling “Vive L’Acadie”. Turns out, that’s the Acadian battle cry! The Acadians wound up being Cajun, but they’re a French, Canadian and Irish mix of people that ended up in the woods up north. Their influence is all over Maine. Our grandfather came from Salmon River, Nova Scotia. If you go back up there, there’s a whole cemetery full of Malletts.”
Stories like these illustrate the celebratory and thought-provoking tone of the album. “Long Black Braid” is a funereal tale, darkened with an Edgar Allan Poe edge and combed over by thick Drive-By Trucker brushes, while “Timberline (High Times)” deals with working class people keeping their chin up. “My brother told me this story,” says Luke, “about how he met someone at one of our shows who fit the exact description of the person in Timberline,” referencing the line “Two tours of duty with the green berets / Now you’re all stove up in the head. Two tours of duty as a captain now you got trouble just remembering what the foreman said.” “He was a veteran who had something really bad happen to him, and was coming to terms with a return to normal life” he remembers. Despite the song’s heaviness, he stresses “it is a hopeful song,” bolstered with clean, fiery fiddle and brisk drum echoes.
Vive L’Acadie borrows the charm of a Dick Curless record, harkening to “Tombstone Every Mile,” which howls with wind sounds, spunky guitar and Curless’ trembling bass voice. Similarly, such album cuts as “Losin’ Horses” and “Good as It Gets” careen across styles, filtered through mud and grit between their teeth.
Recorded at Acadia Recording in Portland, the album came in pieces over the course of several months. By last September, they had more than enough songs to sift through, picking ten that would quickly become a vigorous exploration of the band’s heritage and cultural makeup. This is their most rugged collection yet, building off 2017’s concept album, The Falling of the Pine.
The six-piece have had multiple lineup changes and stylistic shifts over the years, occasionally drawing from founding member Luke Mallett’s high school days of being in a hardcore band, then spitting rhymes in his hip hop collective (he has a particular love of Digable Planets, Gang Starr and Wu Tang), and his brother’s proclivity for tight, blustering rock and bluegrass-tinged guitar playing. Their music stirs feelings of good times even when they are spilling out heartfelt stories and ambitious musical licks. The current lineup of Luke Mallett (vocals/guitar), Will Mallett (vocals/guitar), Nick Leen (bass), Wally Wenzel (dobro/electric guitar/vocals), Chuck Gange (drums) and Andrew Martell (fiddle/guitar/mandolin) is stronger than it has ever been. Each player injects the music with electric precision, as if the sky has been torn open and a string of lightning bolts strike the parched earth.
The Mallett Brothers Band was founded in 2009 with a slightly different lineup, owed in part to life’s gentle tides rocking people in and out of each other’s lives, but the love of the music kept them together despite all odds. As brothers, Luke and Will were exposed to the musician’s life early on by their father, who worked with Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul and Mary) and continues to make music to this day. “He never did anything else but write and play music,” says Luke, “Because of him, I played a little bit of everything, but I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was probably 22 or 23.” Meanwhile, Will played guitar by the time he was 10, largely influenced by his father’s own talents. “I was fortunate enough to inherit some of my dad’s pipes,” says Luke. “He has a strong, really loud voice. I was never the guitar player in the family, but I feel like I can hold my own nowadays.”
The sheer breadth of Vive L’Acadie is astonishing. It’s embedded in classic America. It’s a model T cruising along the roadway, a steam locomotive barreling down the track. It’s a stormy evening when the sun is just perched below the horizon. It represents the struggles of everyday workers who want nothing more than to find their purpose and feed their families. It’s carved from years of blood, sweat and tears and the dedication to the craft shows in spades. The album is set for release on June 15 and their spring tour launches early April.
“Their dense, world-worn roots music is folk-rock at its finest point.” – PopMatters
“They’ve remained steadfast in delivering heartfelt songs with emotional lyricism, vivid imagery, and dynamic musical tones.” – No Depression
“A barn-burner…dagger chops…no dull notes.” – Glide Magazine
“Viva L’Acadie, the new album by The Mallett Brothers Band is a whiskey-soaked old-time Acadian hoedown and everyone’s invited. It’s also a love story to a region and a people – a fading culture caught up in the homogeneity of modern life.” – Folk Radio UK
“Fueled by rootsy America and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll alongside their love of storytelling and imagery.” –Wide Open Country
Publicist: Rachel Hurley
“Baby Robot Media, and Rachel Hurley, in particular, were an absolute pleasure to work with. We launched the campaign with the goal of getting some national press for our latest release, and Baby Robot delivered. From creating a timeline to maximize impact, to tour support and leveraging local press on the road, to hanging out and drinking beers in Texas, Rachel and the team went above and beyond. Communication was thorough and spot-on, in-depth weekly reports kept us up to date on what was going on, and they managed to make the whole process fun. We’d thoroughly recommend Rachel and the rest of the team at Baby Robot Media for any acts hoping to get their stuff out into the world, and wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again.” – Will Mallett