- by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2016-07-22 Label: Drag City
Performance artist, “mama witch”, and voice and songwriting teacher Dawn McCarthy and her faithful sidekick/collaborator Nils Frykdahl return from a 6-year absence with their seventh album for Chicago-based Drag City. A short (30 second) jaunty flute salute, ‘Holding The Sky’ introduces the album, which continues with ‘Ydun’, not unlike vintage Jon Anderson and Yes supplemented with evocative flutes and bells. ‘Goodbye’ feels like it stepped out of the Game of Thrones soundtrack, all strident melodies, emotional vocals, and eerie atmospherics.
McCarthy’s championing of the work of Polish composers and cabaret chanteuses continues with a faithful rendition of the late Polish actress/singer Halina Wyrodek’s ‘Ta Nasza Młodość’. Although nothing can compare with the haunting original, it’s to McCarthy’s vast credit that she is attempting to introduce the English-speaking world to these amazing performers, including Ewa Demarczyk, Krystyna Janda, Katarzyna Groniec, Magda Umer, and, perhaps the most well-known, Anna Nacher (Projekt Karpaty Magiczne).
Frykdahl’s ‘Madmen & Dogs’ explores their acid folky tendencies and will appeal to fans of the usual suspects (Incredible String Band, C.O.B./Clive’s Original Band, Camus, et. al.), and the operatically theatrical title track combines prog, folk, rock, and classical elements to give an easy introduction to what the Fables have been accomplishing for nigh on two decades now. Newcomers can get their feet (and ears) wet here. Or try the poppy ‘O My Stars’ for their more accessible side. But what the crazy, Beefheartian ‘Wild Kids Rant’ is doing here is a complete mystery.
Overall, another eclectic collection of styles, arrangements, and executions from an always-interesting duo who enjoy educating as well as pushing the envelope to introduce listeners to other musical cultures and influences.
Seems some musicians go out of their way not to be compartmentalised. To be fair I haven't heard it.