Marissa Mulder: Souvenirs – The Songs of John Prine

Having admittedly been a John Prine virgin but for a song or two, I doubly enjoyed Marissa Mulder’s illuminating, entertaining show. The artist chooses writers to whom she personally relates. Affinity and sincerity are unmistakable. With little if any similar experience, she sings as if having penned most lyrics. Her gift for connecting with members of an audience, not sweeping over the room without seeing, warms.

“That’s the Way the World Goes Round” (It’s a half an inch of water/And you think you’re gonna drown) and “Paradise”, the story of his dad’s coal town, open with unadulterated country sounds. Mulder’s lilt and contractions seem organic. Every selection has a well researched backstory, often accompanied by quotes. We get to know the man through his songs. Patter is just enough.

“I hate graveyards and old pawn shops…” she sings in “Souvenirs”; “I hate really old love letters…” Mulder looks down, tilts her head, leans forward with a sigh. We’re surrounded by a lovely rolling melody. Even the waggish “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” has an origin tale, this one relating to the “don’t fuck with my America” crowd.

Prine was a shy, self-effacing mailman until pushed onstage at an open mic night. “All of a sudden I discovered I could communicate.” He also worked at a Baptist old people’s home. Mulder exhales “Hello In There” popularized by Bette Midler: “Old people, they just grow lonesome/Waiting for someone to say hello in there, hello…” Hands remain at her sides unless compelled to gesture. Focus is on lyric content. “John wrote that when he was 22,” she notes. Understanding is not based on chronology.

Like the decal song, “Sam Stone” protests, this one describing veteran use of drugs: ”There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where the money goes.”  “Illegal Smile” aptly follows. Though Prine denied its being about “smoking dope,” the lyric fits. Young, attractive Mulder gets pretty damn dark. “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” finds both hands wrapped around the mic stand as if for support. Mike Rosengarten’s guitar adds color and shadow. “Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone” about a promotional film tour by the star of Elephant Boy is cinematic. “Angel From Montgomery,” with decisive back-up, is wrapped in gospel.

After surviving two heart attacks, Prine died of COVID in 2020. “Summer’s End” (written with Pat McLaughlin) is languid, gauzy. Mulder inhabits tenderness. His last composition “I Remember Everything” (also with McLaughlin) continues wistful. The vocalist is clearly an old soul. In opposition to sentiment, “Please Don’t Bury Me” two-steps in a yee-haw, cracker barrel tune with macabre lyrics. The performer is gleeful.

Marissa Mulder, Mike Rosengarten

Mulder closes in a smiley, country duet of “Ourselves” with Rosengarten. We exit feeling good.

Jon Weber’s arrangements and low key, textural musicianship sustains emotional tone and offers variety.

Marissa Mulder: Souvenirs – The Songs of John Prine
Jon Weber – MD, piano, back-up
Mike Rosengarten – guitar, vocal

Laurie Beechman Theater 
407 West 42nd Street

About Alix Cohen (1583 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.