The beauty of singer Dawn McCarthy in Faun Fables and with Bonnie "Prince" Billy | Bleader

The beauty of singer Dawn McCarthy in Faun Fables and with Bonnie "Prince" Billy



Faun Fables
  • Todd Atteberry
  • Faun Fables
On Sunday afternoon Bay Area group Faun Fables rolls into town to play a house concert on the northwest side (the previously announced Saturday-night show at SPACE in Evanston is no longer happening). The band is the project of the remarkable singer Dawn McCarthy and her longtime partner Nils Frykdahl (who's probably known best for his lengthy membership in the weirdo art-punk band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum). On their latest album (from 2011), Light of a Vaster Dark (Drag City), she wrote and sang all of the songs—which for my tastes is a good development, as I don't have the stomach for the extroverted theatricality Frykdahl usually brings to the fold.

McCarthy and Frykdahl deploy a dazzling array of folk sounds, drawing from Nordic, British, and American traditions with a rock flavor and kaleidoscopic timbre rooted in rich, detailed arrangements. McCarthy summons the spirit of 70s British folk-rock without the florid melodic embroidery and only subtle vibrato. On the group's website McCarthy writes of the tour, "I've gathered material that salutes some of my big singing inspirations: Norwegian & English folk songs, Demis Roussos (the Greek), Marianna Sadovska (the minstrel ambassador of the Ukraine) . . . plus some first drafts of a few new originals and other fun bits." Below you can check out the song "Sweeping Spell."

Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie Prince Billy
  • Lindsey Rome
  • Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie "Prince" Billy
To be honest, I've been more absorbed by McCarthy's stellar work on What the Brothers Sang (Drag City), a collaborative effort with Bonnie "Prince" Billy (aka Will Oldham) that features beautiful interpretations of 13 songs either written by or associated with the Everly Brothers, particularly darker, lesser-known entries from their discography. The record was made in Nashville with BPB's trusty Chicago-based foil Emmett Kelly on guitar and harmony vocals, the great Nashville session drummer Kenny Malone, and a handful of others, but the focus is placed squarely on the voices of McCarthy and Oldham. Obviously they can't re-create the special close harmony singing of the Everlys (a lineage the brothers extended from the Delmore and Louvin Brothers), but they have a fabulous rapport and sound gorgeous together, with just the right trace of dissonance between them—whether it's on upbeat material like the infectious "Milk Train" or the most downcast ballads, such as "It's All Over." There are no songs available for me to stream here, but the label did produce a short documentary on the making of the album that gives a taste of its power and lyric splendor.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the updated time and location of the Faun Fables show.

Today's playlist:

Lysander le Coultre and Albert van Veenendaal, A Cool Tree (Evil Rabbit)
Dennis Bovell, Dennis Bovell Presents 4th Street Orchestra, Scientific: Higher Ranking Dubb/Yuh Learn! (EMI, UK)
The Contest of Pleasures, Alibi Days (Potlatch)
Hafez Modirzadeh, Post-Chromodal Out! (Pi)
Dexter Gordon, The Squirrel (Blue Note)