Mick Mullin is a plainspoken storyteller making original music steeped in country and gospel traditions. His second album Mullin’ It Over is a diverse set of vignettes digging deep into the soil of the American roots music tradition. Throughout, he contemplates his life up to this point: his choices, his mistakes, and his redemption.
Mullin’ It Over represents his growth both as a person and as a songwriter starting with his 2019 debut Music City Miracle. While the stories told are fictional, the experiences informing them are not, including his struggle with alcoholism and the renewed faith which saved his life. “I would rather be rejected for who I am than accepted for who I’m not,” he says, freely admitting that might not win him any popularity contests. “I’ve decided to carry the torch of original country and roots songwriting to tell the story of where I’ve been and who I am now because of it. I sing in dive bars and honky-tonks on Saturday night and help lead worship in church on Sunday morning with the same flat-top guitar.”
The son of a Kentucky coal miner's daughter and a Tennessee Bible editor, Mullin grew up in Nashville surrounded by the sounds of his family’s beloved Baptist hymns, classic rock ‘n’ roll, and country. In high school he first got involved with both making music and getting into trouble. Youthful run-ins with the law, a bad car accident, and stints in rehab sent him down an unconventional wandering path, guitar in hand, with stops in Las Vegas, New York City, Moscow (Russia), Asheville, and Seattle. Alcoholism followed him along the way, threatening to ruin his life.
His eventual recovery and new stability with his girlfriend (now wife) reignited his love for songwriting, and set him on the path to releasing music for the first time. If Music City Miracle showed his rowdier, honky-tonk side, Mullin’ It Over deliberately leans more traditional, allowing him to play with a variety of sounds and genres.
Mullin’ It Over was recorded at The Project Room in Nashville with Jerry Webb at the helm as co-producer, engineer, and lead guitarist. Mullin credits the pandemic-imposed downtime with the ability to snag some of Nashville’s A-list session players to contribute. Making an appearance are National Fiddler Hall of Fame members Joe Spivey and Craig Duncan, pedal steel and dobro player Eddie Lange (Joshua Hedley & The Hedliners, Jon Byrd, Mo Pitney), guitarist Billy Smith (son of renowned publicist Hazel Smith), bull fiddle player Marilyn Smith, and upright bass player Lisa Horngren (Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three, Jett Williams, Carlene Carter). Billy Whittington, a Grammy winner for his work with CeCe Winans and Heather Headley, stepped in as mastering engineer.
References to country music’s past abound on the album, yet Mullin stays true to his love of original storytelling. “Bristol 1927,” a duet featuring Hannah Juanita, is a love story told through letters set during the famous Bristol sessions, and a reflection on how Mullin’s alcoholism led to damaged relationships and squandered opportunities. “Small Black Gun” is a retelling of “Long Black Veil” through the eyes of the real killer, a character who is consumed by cowardice and strong drink, leaving him in a hopeless state worse than death.
Elsewhere is Mullin’s loving tribute to John Prine through a cover of “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” (an uncredited co-write with Steve Goodman), updated with a new verse especially for Prine. His raw, unconventional vocal power is on display in the straight-up honky-tonkers “Thank God They Closed The Honky Tonks” (a duet with fellow Nashville artist Timbo) and “Foolish Son,” the latter a song about the disappointment of fathers based on the Book of Proverbs.
Most fittingly, the album closes with two songs close to Mullin’s heart. His Nana, Bette, a composer and songwriter herself, wrote “Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful?” as a poem in the ‘80s to express her hope of being with God in glory one day. Mullin eventually set the poem to music, but it wasn’t until Bette recently came up with an unexpected melody that they finalized the arrangement and finished the song together. She sings on the track, her first time in the studio. Another high point is the album’s closer “Do You Know Where You’ll Go?,” a hard-driving bluegrass gospel tune with featured guests Billy and Marilyn Smith. In a jubilant twist, the song transitions into Roy Acuff’s “When I Lay My Burden Down” before fading out.
Mullin’ It Over is a mature, forthright blend of country, gospel, and bluegrass, hard truths and painful losses, back alleys and houses of worship. Mullin is the unlikely hero at the center, radiating scruffy charm and sincerity. “I aim to be a positive example of change and redemption,” he explains. “Some folks are songwriters’ songwriters, but I want to be a song lover’s songwriter. I won’t sacrifice originality for tradition’s sake. I just want to connect with folks with these songs, whether it be in a humorous, contemplative, or spiritually-convicting way.”