Luke Mulholland’s name is beginning to resonate more and more throughout the corners of the rock music world today. He’s the hotshot guitarist who was sneaking into bars to wow club audiences at the tender age of 14; the dynamic frontman and bandleader whose talents landed him an opening slot for Bon Jovi at 17; the prolific recording artist who completed four full-length albums before his 21st birthday; or the road warrior who has toured alongside legends such as The Yardbirds, Blue Oyster Cult, Dickey Betts and Blues Traveler over the last two years.
This young virtuoso has a track record many would kill for, with potential to spare – and now he’s delivering upon that promise with the release of his best album yet, Midnight Carnival. Produced by American Voodoo label head Shiva Baum, this album’s twelve tracks are proof that Mulholland is maturing into a true rock-and-roll force to be reckoned with, and a testament to the path that’s taken him to this pivotal point in his career.
Taking up the guitar at age 10, Luke acquired a taste for classic rock, closely studying the records of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors while honing riffs on his acoustic and learning the art of the solo. He caught the performing bug early on after his father took him to an open-mic to play a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine.” Soon, Mulholland was dividing his after-school time between home recording his debut album Road Home and sneaking out of the house to local late night open-mics, only to play a couple songs. “Playing live was the most fun I’d ever had,” Luke explains, “so I’d take any chance I could get back then.” Luke's life changed after his father took a listen to a couple rough mixes Luke was working on. The music was so accomplished and mature, he couldn’t believe it was Luke’s at first – before reality set in, and the senior Mulholland realized his son was beginning to forge a path that called for a backing band and club gigs, ASAP.
Gigging regularly by his mid-teens, Luke quickly became a natural performer, thanks in no small part to the development of his powerful blues baritone – a gritty, rough-edged voice that sounds well beyond its owner’s years – as well as his phenomenal blues-rock leads, a sound that picked up where Stevie Ray Vaughan left off. Audiences were often drawn in by the curiosity of the artist’s age, before being blown away by his capabilities as a musician and vocalist, and rightly so. He earned praise from the late guitarist Jeff Healey, with whom he jammed onstage. He even landed an opening spot for Bon Jovi in Toronto, playing before a crowd of 18,000 and receiving accolades from guitarist Richie Sambora. As with Luke, the gigs continued to grow and mature with stops alongside The Marshall Tucker Band, Mountain, and The Allman Brothers’ Dickey Betts, who Luke traded licks with in a couple onstage jams.
A move to Boston in 2007 signaled a new beginning for the artist, who began attending the prestigious Berklee School of Music that year while ingratiating himself into the local scene, promoting his '08 album "Further." Many immediately sat up and took notice – such as the Boston Globe, who pondered, “How does a 19-year-old know so much about love and loss, the trials of the working man, and blues rock? We have no idea, but we love Luke Mulholland’s sound – and we’re proud to call him our own.” Beat Crave championed Further, declaring, “It’s very rare that the first impression of an album consists of the following running ___script: ‘Wait a second….where the hell did all this soul come from?’” Meanwhile, Luke was transforming his pickup musicians into a group he could truly call “the best band I’ve ever had,” with bassist Seth Glennie-Smith, keyboardist Bruce Bears, drummer Jayme Tardiff, and vocalist Kasey Pierce.
Backed by his “dream band,” by then well-seasoned from months on the road, Mulholland entered the Los Angeles’ American Voodoo Studios last year to create Midnight Carnival, an album that puts his and the group’s new-found maturity, confidence and swagger on full display. As Luke puts it, the album “shows my development both as a musician and a person. I’ve had a chance to really get a taste of the real world over the last couple years, and these songs cover themes from love and hope to lust and pain...both the light and darkness in life.” Luke forged the last whirlwind couple years to a “carnival,” creating a song cycle that reflected his meditations on his new life. Inspired by new-found influences such as The Beatles and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the material shows a melodic and harmonic sophistication with inventive, intricate arrangements coupled with a modern rock approach that really separates Mulholland from the pack as a distinguished artist.
Nowhere is this more evident than “If I Only Knew,” a breezy rocker that finds the guitarist exploring new chordal territory that shows both the impact of Berklee and Beatles on this new, improved Mulholland. Reeling from an unrequited love gone bad, Luke wrote this intriguing, spiraling tune in remembrance. “It was the first time that I realized just how badly you can get burned by love,” says Luke. “I had a friend who I thought I could trust but as soon as I opened up she turned on me and I was just left with that line on repeat in my mind – if I only knew. On the track, the songwriter chides, “Don’t ask me where to find the love you’re missing/The answer lies in you.” “Love” finds Luke revamping and updating an older song into a mantra-like rocker. “I wasn’t sure about the song at first, but Shiva said, ‘You know, that’s a riff that’s on par with the best of Zeppelin.’” Over a busy yet hypnotizing drum beat from Tardiff, Mulholland defiantly sings, “Love, it ain’t strong enough to bring me down.”
Single “The Truth” finds Luke integrating his hard rock versatility with pure pop sense, taking a page out of the Beatles’ book. “Before I got into them, ‘pop’ was a negative term to me. Only now do I realize that you can write a great pop song that can still kick ass.” Starting off with an unstoppable riff, Luke crows, “Now the truth has been revealed/But you refuse to see what’s real.” Elsewhere, the instrumental “Cow Trippin’” pays homage to the time spent on the road with Dickey Betts, a nod to the southern rock guitar harmonies and dazzling solos of the seminal 70s outfit that shows Luke & Co. have learned a thing or two traveling with rock masters on the road.
The result is an product of a musical mind capable of counting on the past for inspiration while looking forward to a new day in music, where classic rock education becomes pure modern rock majesty. And it won’t stop here... More turbo-charged gigs, inspired albums and pure rock and roll are well on the way 'cause as Mulholland has always said – “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
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