Light of a Vaster Dark
Dawn McCarthy is at it again. If you’ve a yen for historical re-enactors, or if you love school holiday pageants but wish the music was more daring, dig in! This song cycle celebrates simple joys and responsibilities, including a few that don’t get much coverage these days: housekeeping, milling flour, motherhood. Lead singer McCarthy’s fetish is thrusting life’s mundane details into a theatrical spotlight. Sometimes the stomps-and-bodhráns percussion and deliberate, detached vocals suggest a cloggers’ festival run by librarians. Except for a nice stretch of blues harp and occasional guitar, the rest of the instrumentation also runs to the odd side — bass clarinet, autoharp, all manner of flutes. (What, was the hammered dulcimer out for repairs?) Meredith Yayanos’ violin helps keep balance with relatively simple evocations of pathos or strength, whereas McCarthy wants to “reflect on crumbs of situations” with music that hopscotches between the centuries. Her musical family can pull you in with their commitment and skill, as long as you’re not put off by their unique approach.