At a glance, the singer/songwriter's shantytown blues reach into America's Depression-era past. But on closer examination, the songs are about life today.
His personable narrative lyrics, combined with his soul-touching arrangements bring out stories of a city-corner busker ("Homeless Joe"), a man down on his luck ("Fraction of a Man") and the grandson of a sharecropper who tells his story ("Cabbagetown").
While the songs are inspired from meetings with people throughout his career, Mullins sings each tale as if it is his own. It works especially well during "The Ballad of Kathryn Johnston," a song depicting the erosion of a neighborhood seen through the eyes of an apparent centenarian, who, like her neighborhood, finally dies.
The texture of his down-and-out baritone mix well with his trusty acoustic guitar and juke-joint band.
Guest artists include singer/songwriter Kasey Chambers on "Cabbagetown" and Francine Reed (from Lyle Lovett's Large Band) singing backups on "Homeless Joe" and "All In My Head."While these songs have a touch of poignancy, in some cases a huge stamp, the compositions are catchy and even musically uplifting. And they're perfect to hear on a road trip to Moab.