Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, which includes the twin cool college towns of Northampton and Amherst has certainly helped launch a band or two in the past forty or so years: Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, and Speedy Ortiz to name a few. However, due to its cultural progressiveness, there been little in the way of string bands and roots music of late to hit the national festival circuit. Enter newgrass quartet Mamma’s Marmalade
On their new LP Rabbit Analog, Mamma’s Marmalade pays tribute to the Americana canon while pulling it right along into today at a joyous gallop. Eminently engaging yet full of nuance, the record draws from acoustic traditions spanning Appalachia and the Ozarks to craft a sound that manages to be at once familiar and definitively fresh. Honeyed harmonies buoy the classic high- lonesome croon of lead vocalist Lily Sexton, sailing above a whirling reel of steel-string sonics and pop melody.
Mammas Marmalade started in a UMass dorm room when Sexton (fiddle) and Mitch Bordage (mandolin) bonded over bluegrass. Sean Davis joined them on guitar in 2016, and the band released their debut album Goodbye, Black Velvet, the following summer. In 2019 the band released their sophomore LP Rockabee Fields. “You can really hear the ways we were stretching and exploring on those first two records,” says Sexton. “We gigged so much in those days, learning the life of a touring band as we went along.” Following Rockabee Fields they welcomed bassist Dan Bisson to their musical family.
Written at turns in a New Orleans rental house, a minivan crossing the Ozarks, and a drafty Massachusetts garage in the middle of a springtime lockdown is imbued with the exhilaration of journeying and discovery, and the emotional encounters that accompany that. “A lot of the songs are about places and tell stories of traveling,” says Bordage. “Then we have a side of the album that deals with trying to understand the experiences you’ve had. There are a lot of different places we take the music in this album, some familiar to us and some foreign, but throughout there is a confidence in our intent to explore.”
Glide is premiering the video for Mamma’s Marmalade, supercharged combustion of string instruments, and indie rock friskiness. Influenced by 70’s folk-pop, bluegrass, and country, the band stirs up its own pot that hollers with Dolly Parton, Hot Rize, and The Incredible String Band. Check out the lively video below and more about the song and video from Sexton.
The idea for “One Trick Pony” came to me through my affection for working common idioms and phrases into my writing, and from there, the song took its final form fairly quickly. I was listening to a lot of 70’s folk-pop, bluegrass, and country at the time (Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark”, Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again”) , and the boppy feel and arpeggiated melodies really felt right, especially as a counterpart to the lyrical content; feeling doomed to make the same heartbreaking mistakes with a person who doesn’t treat you right. My favorite line is in the second verse: “If fear is the snare/Love is the knife”. I’m still unpacking what that actually means to me, and I enjoy that in a song. Mitch (mandolin) and I wrote the bridge late into a night of writing, and in our exhaustion and my desire to call it a night, I finally looked at him and said, “This is just to be funny, but what if we sing ‘I love you’ over and over again?” I maintain that ideas in music that start as a joke can be really good ideas and one should never dismiss them.
The video concept was easy to put together, once we had the location set up for the whole band (everything needed to be shot outside due to Covid). I was working at Stone Pony Farm in Leverett, MA at the time, and my access to ponies made featuring one in a video with “Pony” in the title an easy choice. Pancho played our one trick pony in the video, and he was a trooper, despite it raining off and on all throughout our shooting session. Sofi Taylor of Saltbox Films and her grip/my brother Riley Sexton made the whole experience incredibly smooth. One of my favorite elements of the video is the beautiful natural light that Sofi captured on her camera, as well as her visionary editing style.
Photos by Georgia Rae Teensma