The Mallett Brothers Band will be in concert at the Criterion Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Mallett Brothers share music of Maine

On a recent overcast Friday, The Mallett Brothers Band was at their recording studio in Portland getting ready to load up their gear and head to a gig in Manchester, N.H. The stop is one of many on the group’s current tour, which has them at the Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor on Saturday.

“We keep busy,” Luke Mallett said during a phone interview.

Keeping “busy” is a bit of an understatement. The Mallett Brothers Band is on the road for much of the year, maintaining a schedule of more than 150 performances annually.

“We’re kind of addicted to the road,” Mallett admitted.

Despite all that windshield time driving between appearances, the band has managed to record four albums and is putting the final touches on a fifth album scheduled for release early next year.

While previous albums contain original material, the lyrics for songs on the new album come from a book published in 1927: “Minstrelsy of Maine: Folk Songs and Ballads of the Woods and the Coast.” The book was written by Fannie Hardy Eckstrom and Mary Winslow Smith, who collected the songs throughout the state, including on Mount Desert Island.

“We took the lyrics and worked them into our own thing,” Mallett said.

The result is a mix of traditional and modern sounds that isn’t easily categorized.

“For the most part, I think it’s its own animal,” Mallett said.

The audience at the Criterion will hear some of the songs from that album and, Mallett promises, “some even newer than that.”

Mallett and his brother, Will, both of whom sing and play guitar, founded the band in 2009. Guitarist Wally Wenzel and bassist Nick Leen were there at the beginning and continue to be part of the lineup. Recent additions are drummer Adam Cogswell and Andrew Martelle, who plays fiddle and mandolin.

Luke and Will are the sons of Dave Mallett, the Maine-based folksinger perhaps best known for penning the “Garden Song,” which has been recorded by Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver and even the Muppets. When the boys were young, the family moved to Nashville, where their father furthered his songwriting career. Their home became a haven for singer-songwriters, including Hal Ketchum, who later would have a hit on the country charts with “Small Town Saturday Night.”

“It was fun to grow up with all these kids whose parents were musicians,” Mallett said.

When Mallett was 12, the family moved back to Maine.

“Sebec, Maine. That’s definitely home,” Mallett said, adding that his roots in that area go back many generations.

Despite his exposure to music while growing up, Mallett didn’t start playing guitar until in his 20s.

“I love lyrics,” he said. “I sang and even rapped. But once I started playing guitar on stage, I felt naked without it.”

Will, who is two years younger than Luke, began playing much earlier.

“We got him a guitar when he was 10,” Mallett recalled. “He never put it down.”

The brothers didn’t start playing music together until they formed The Mallett Brothers Band. The band began, as so many do, by “jamming in the living room,” Mallett said.

“It continues to evolve,” he said of the band’s music. Even old songs get new treatments. “We like to keep it interesting.”

This is the second time The Mallett Brothers Band has performed at the Criterion. Mallett remembers the great reception they received from the audience.

“We had a blast,” he said, adding that he expects the same on Saturday. “This will be a fun one.”

Tickets for The Mallett Brothers Band, $20 for adults and $15 for students, are available at the Criterion box office or online at The concert begins at 8 p.m.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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