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Chris McNulty: Eternal

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As vocalist Chris McNulty explains in the liner notes, it took one tragedy to enable her to musically address another. The Australian expat was in New York when Hurricane Sandy struck, and she remained housebound-no power, no water-for eight days. Such intense isolation proved cathartic, enabling her to begin assembling this finely crafted tribute to her grown son Sam, who’d died two years earlier.

The Great American Songbook overflows with songs of loss and grief. It would have been easy for McNulty to wallow in the inky hurt of, say, “There’s No You” or “I’ll Never Smile Again.” Instead, she opted to focus on a sentiment shared by so many Sandy-devastated friends and neighbors: that out of darkness can come light, hope and renewed faith. Yes, her playlist includes elements of the forlorn, with haunting readings of “Yesterday I Heard the Rain” and Steve Kuhn and Sherrill Craig’s heartrending “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers.” But they’re offset by the likes of Billy Strayhorn’s delicately uplifting “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing,” the brighter-tomorrow anthem “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and that wonderfully quirky nod to good-hearted individualism, “Nature Boy.”

The mood is gentle and reflective, enhanced by a chamber ensemble orchestrated and conducted by fellow Aussie Steve Newcomb and an empathetic trio-pianist-arranger John di Martino, drummer Gregory Hutchinson and bassist Ugonna Okegwo. McNulty proves, as always, an inspired interpreter, able to shape sentiments so deeply personal yet so universally resonant.

Originally Published