My Favorite Sings

Kathy Mar

Prometheus Music, 2000

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Kathy Mar may be one of the better singers you've probably never heard of, a longtime veteran of the particularly individualistic brand of music known as filk. There's a lot of definitions of filk, and to be fair it's not easily cubbyholed. It's usually acoustic (except when it's not), usually played at SF conventions or pagan gatherings, and is the unofficial music of the subculture known as fen; the gamers, SF convention goers, SCAers, and mystic misfits of the world.

Easy, then, to dismiss it. Foolish, too, as filk is growing past its badly-produced roots to be a vital, dynamic, and intelligent genre. (Yes, even I hated filk once. I have been enlightened.) Mar has been recording since 1982; she's a member of the Filk Hall of Fame and a three-time Pegasus Award winner, given at the yearly OVFF filk convention. In her genre, she's a heavy hitter indeed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But what does that mean musically? Not having heard Mar's previous work (I'm still learning about filk), I was presented with her latest CD, My Favorite Sings, and promptly discovered it was a CD of covers of others' work. I'll be honest. I shuddered. Cover albums are rarely worth the price of admission, save some of Magna Carta's work. Then I put it on, and was pleasantly surprised.

If it's not your song, your voice and your band have to carry you, and Mar's backup musicians (including violinist Cat Taylor from semi-legendary-among-filkers Celt/rock/folk band Phoenyx) do her justice. Special note should go to Margaret Davis' harp work on "Flowering Green", Mark Ungar's banjo work on "The 20th Century Is Almost Over" (originally penned by Steve Goodman), and all the string work by Cat Taylor and cellist Kris Yenney.

Above all, though, Mar does justice to her ideosyncratic song choices, with few exceptions. Her voice, rich and full, is expressive, handling other people's songs as if they were her own. Standout tracks include "Merlin" (originally performed by California filker Doug McArthur), "Song Of The Ripper" (originally the work of Dr. Jane Robinson), Tommy Sands' "Daughters And Sons", and Catherine Faber's "The Word Of God", which should be copied in mass media and ten thousand copies dumped in Rep. Bob Barr's office. Other artists covered include folk legend Christine Lavin and Nate Bucklin.

The sole disappointment: Mar's version of Betsy Rose's "Water, Fire, And Smoke". While I normally enjoy the digderidoo, I felt it was distracting on this song, and found the original version by Rose far better and easier to understand. A minor quibble, but a particularly personal one for me as I love Rose's work.

All in all, My Favorite Sings is worth looking into, for both filk fan and non-filker looking to widen their musical horizons.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Prometheus Music, and is used for informational purposes only.