When you hear that a singer has a “contralto” vocal sound, it is usually safe to assume that she is of the Classical or Opera genre of vocal presentation. However, my first real exposure to hearing Mary Fahl sing was her most artistic, and for me, very inspirational interpretation of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Titled “From the Dark Side of the Moon” (2011), I was very impressed with the range and quality of Mary’s vocal style and sound. Hearing “big” voices doesn’t necessarily equate to a truly pleasing sound quality, and hearing pleasing voices often does not mean that singer could fill a room while singing a Capella. Miss Fahl can accomplish both in a “stop you dead in your tracks” sort of way that I have rarely encountered in my music listening life. Performing on Thursday at Martyr’s on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Mary wowed an intimate and most appreciative crowd with her vocal prowess. As far as this reviewer is concerned, she gained a big fan last night.
I know I’m coming a little late to the party when it comes to Mary Fahl, as she had enjoyed considerable acclaim by the mid 1990’s with her work in the then quartet October Project. The first two October Project releases combined to sell more than 300,000 albums for Epic Records during that time frame. Well, as the old saying goes “better late than never”. Having had the chance to reach back and listen to those two albums in advance of seeing her performance last night, it’s safe to say they will be in my regular listening rotation for quite some time. I find something that is both soothing and reinvigorating about hearing Ms. Fahl sing.
Currently touring as a solo act, I had the pleasure of spending a few minutes after the show with Mary and her crew, which consisted of her roadie, sound man, driver and husband, who all happen to be one person, Mr. Richard Lutz. A fascinating individual in his own right, Mr. Lutz has done some remarkable work as a Director for the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University. Speaking to Richard briefly about his work and research in under water volcano eruptions, I realized on one hand I was way out of my league, but on the other hand these two very genuine people would be a blast to sit down with over a meal and a bottle of wine to hear about their travels. Needless to say, I would be doing a lot of listening.
While listening to Mary Fahl perform, you can pick up on such influences as Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell, however, it is Mary’s own remarkable vocal versatility that truly stands out. Not many performers can go from playing a solo version of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” to a classical 11th century “Kharja,” “Ben Aindi Habibi,” followed by “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from the Italian opera L’ elisir d’amore, then on to a traditional Celtic classic like “Dawning of the Day” (The Other Side of Time 2003), for which Mary rewrote her own lyrics in honor of the fire fighters lost on 9/11/01. Getting the opportunity recently to take in and learn about musicians and musical styles that are “outside of the box” for my basic, but well established musical wheelhouse has been quite enjoyable. None more so then last night. I am definitely looking forward to a new release form Mary Fahl soon, as well as her next visit to Chicago.
For more on Mary Fahl, read Kevin Pollack’s interview with her at: http://rockchicago.net/?p=809
Reviewed by Patrick Kinsella on 5/17/12