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Faun Fables - A Table Forgotten

Released on Drag City, 7/22/08

My family moved from Northern Ireland to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1984. We were truly strangers in a strange land. We were Irish transplants smack dab in the middle of the U.S. on a one year “working vacation” which lasted 24 years and running. Suffice to say I listened to one heck of a lot of traditional and popular Irish jams in that duplex in Lincoln.

As I subsided on a steady diet of KFRX “The Hits” my folks continued to play the classics, from Clannad to Van “The Man” Morrison, James Galway to Enya, and let us not forget The Chieftains. I will say, being young and foreign, I did everything within my six-year-old power to appear older and Nebraskan. To me this meant ditching the accent pronto and diving into the complexities of Starship’s “We Built This City”. Years later, however, I have found the musical backdrop that my parents provided of traditionally- themed Irish music to be embedded within me.

I was convinced upon hearing A Table Forgotten, the new EP by Oakland’s Faun Fables, that singer Dawn McCarthy had a similar yarn to spin regarding her childhood relocation from somewhere cold and damp to somewhere flat and filled with corn. But no, she was raised in Spokane, Washington. I was shocked.

But what I could not deny was the fact that this woman has created a sound so familiar to me yet so laced with influence. So genuine is McCarthy’s approach to stylistic and thematic shift and experimentation that, search and search again, I could find no fluctuation in approach. Ladies and gentlemen: Dawn McCarthy has “done us a solid”.

As a self-described “storyteller and shape-shifter” her pairing with musical partner Nils Frykdahl (from the avant-garde rock/performance group Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum) in 1997 was quite simply meant to be. They both move through this album like chameleons of sound, gently taking the listener from phase to phase and line to line. The EP opens with “With Words and Cake”, a mostly a cappella piece complete with whoops and hollers and the necessary tin whistle of my homeland.

Immediately after that is the psych-folk piece “Pictures” which sounds like a cross between Nico with The Velvet Underground and a sweet, sweet lullaby. The title track “A Table Forgotten” starts with a Gospel-like chant, goes into a swing-jazz rhythm and then hints around at everything from Fairport Convention to Espers to Tanya Donelly. The album closes with “Winter Sleep” a creepy rock opera thick with climbing vocals and counter-melodies. Exciting to say the least.

The table may be forgotten but it is worn, weathered and noble, and it will be around for quite some time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars