When it comes to chemistry, Mike Merenda and Ruth Ungar have plenty to spare. Onstage, they are Mike + Ruthy, a husband-and-wife duo setting the folk scene ablaze. Singers and storytellers, poets and parents, the two tour with their children in tow, embodying a down-home approach to Americana that is honest, beautiful and raw. Bouncing between festivals and intimate venues, these troubadours bring harmony-driven fiddle and banjo tunes to more than 100 shows a year.
Road-tested material such as the pair’s celebrated reharmonizing of Woody Guthrie’s “My New York City” cement Merenda and Ungar’s status as a “national treasure,” according to peer Anaïs Mitchell.
Merenda’s poignant songs paint pictures of the world we want to live in, inspired in great part by his favorite author, Daniel Quinn. With songs like What It All Is, and Beyond Civilization, his lyrics embrace the notion that we are all connected, to each other and to the Earth. His crowd-pleasing piece, Sunshiner, is an ode to clean living which simultaneously honors the past and looks to the future with the sing-along lyric, “Yes my Daddy was a miner, but I’m gonna be a sunshiner” and was nominated for an International Folk Music Award for Song of the Year.
Ungar’s unique vocal style ranges from a capella balladry to earthy soul and country. She was raised in a folk music family and learned the fiddle at a young age. Her father is fiddler/composer Jay Ungar, best known for his composition Ashokan Farewell which she also enjoys performing. Like her father’s evocative fiddling which is well known to elicit tears from many a rapt audience, so too does Ruthy weave a magical spell with her sonorous and emotional singing - as they like to joke: “making people cry is the family business!”
Mike + Ruthy have recorded and performed their exquisite, original folk music together for two decades as the duo Mike + Ruthy and with their seminal folk rock quintet The Mammals. They make their home in the lush Hudson River Valley of New York where they and friends host their own thriving community folk festival, The Hoot.
A recent tour of the UK, prompted this concert review from Celtic Music Radio, “Hailed by many as Americana trailblazers, Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda, happily married and exuding togetherness on stage, are also gently-mannered activists with well-crafted songs that successfully ask potent questions and raise issues to probe how we can improve the planet. They deliver their material persuasively and in an eloquent manner with enjoyment of their music underpinning the approach overall. The music is the motivator throughout.”
Mike + Ruthy concerts blend artistry and authenticity, with fiery fiddle & banjo, emotionally potent harmonies, and dynamic stories that deepen the experience. Tap your toes, dance, or sit back sing along as Mike + Ruthy “roam effortlessly through the whole span that is Americana, from alt-country to folk to bluegrass." (The Bluegrass Situation)