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Faun Fables - A Table Forgotten CD (album) cover

A TABLE FORGOTTEN

Faun Fables

 

Prog Folk

4.00 | 1 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars My favorite modern folk chanteuse is back, although she seems to have left the stage behind for the time being in exchange for a more pedestrian lifestyle. Dawn McCarthy and her partner Nils Frykdahl solicited feedback from fans on their website a while back, in search of a suitable community in which to raise the child they were planning to have. I don’t know the outcome and don’t want to surf around to find out, since somehow that strikes me as a bit invasive into their life and a little creepy to boot. Suffice to say I presume they found said home, and that said family is either in it, or on the way. The tenor of this EP suggests Ms. McCarthy is in a domestic state of mind these days.

The theme here grew out of an awareness Ms. McCarthy has developed of late. She said in a recent interview that she came to realize from discussions with some close friends of hers that too many of them had no strong family traditions, or fond memories of hearth and home. This actually gives a fair amount of credence to a personal conviction of mine regarding the connections of modern life, child day care and the growing sterility of family bonds; but that’s a rant for another day. It’s relevant to these songs though, so don’t get the idea it isn’t.

Anyway, McCarthy has apparently decided to issue this as the first in a series of vignette collections of wistful domestic poems set to music. This one has the feeling of entry, as if one is peering through the foyer of a home and past the sitting room into the kitchen and possibly out onto the back porch. Each of the four songs accompanies the listener a step at a time through this short journey. At least that’s my interpretation.

But Faun Fables are not your normal bucolic, flowery-meadow-and-babbling-brook folk singers. Their brand of folk is not that simple, convenient or digestible. Frykdahl’s contributions are an extension of the sound he formed as part of Idiot Flesh and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum; while McCarthy I suspect is the flower-power child of a couple of aged hippies who probably still have a working pottery wheel on their patio and have the first season of ‘Dharma & Greg’ on video. In fact, her mother performed on most of the previous Faun Fables albums and even co-wrote a song on one of them.

One track (“Winter Sleep”) was written by long-time Bj÷rk studio engineer Valgeir Sigur­sson, but the other three are McCarthy’s. Her lyrics are poetry, not narrative, and as such are abstract enough that they are both open to interpretation and difficult to derive much meaning from. The basic gist of “With Words and Cake” seems to be a sort of comforting hymn to wayward travelers, a slightly pagan- sounding chant beckoning lost souls to a brief but friendly respite from their wandering, among strangers who are nonetheless welcoming. McCarthy’s deep and throaty vocals accent the hand drums and haphazard percussion much in much the same way as on ‘Early Song’, a collection of her oldest works released for general consumption a few years ago. I suppose this is the hearth of the home.

“Pictures” is one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard, although I’m not sure it was meant to be. The opening precarious strands of violin pretty much set the mood, followed by McCarthy’s soft and slow singing accompanied by the vocals of violinist Meredith Yayanos and harmoniumist (harmoniumer?) Kirana Peyton. As an aside, any album featuring someone by the name of Kirana instantly qualifies as a full-fledged, legitimate folk standard – no questions asked. This is a tribute to the snapshots of our lives – pictures, tilting precariously on walls and leaning against lamps and stuffed into drawers or pasted into dusty books. They tell the stories of our lives long after we’ve lived them, and in many case forgotten them. The pictures invite you in to share in the memories, but at the same time remind you of time lost where only paper and shadows of memory remain. Like I said – sad as hell.

The title track echoes a sentiment I’ve had myself, sitting at the kitchen table of our home where we’ve watched three sons grow from dribbling baby food down the sides to sharing hurried meals between school and childhood activities, to having serious and contemplative conversations about the weight of The Struggle and impending adulthood; to holding the photos and letters of young men grown and moved on to discover worlds of their own:

“O here they gathered, here they withered, here they thrived; where stories begin and stories survive…”

The closing “Winter Sleep” laments the coming dusk, the evening that brings with it dark but dynamic colors and sleepy thoughts. Here the harmonium, violin, drums, guitar and theremin combine with McCarthy’s unique vocals to issue a sound something akin to a forest sÚance. This is vintage Faun Fables, the crafting of someone else’s words and music as their own. A perfect ending to a brief but filling record.

Like I said at the beginning, I have a soft spot for Ms. McCarthy and Frykdahl and the cacophony they commit to tape every once and awhile. This stuff is not for everyone, but for those who have the capacity to get emotionally involved with the folk (aka, personal) aspects of music, the experience can be rewarding. Four stars once again for Faun Fables, and you can be assured this is as good as anything else they’ve done to-date.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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