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Dame Darcy's Greatest Hits

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Album Review

Given the look of her cult-favorite comic, Meat Cake, her general goth rock-girl appearance, and her previous association with former Swans leader Michael Gira, one would assume that Dame Darcy's debut album would be bleak, brooding and gothic. That's not far from the truth, but the context is a bit startling: Greatest Hits consists primarily of traditional murder ballads and folk songs performed without a hint of irony, along with several original songs in the same style. A couple of tunes, the Pete Seeger-like banjo rendition of Beethoven's "Ode To Joy," and the solo version of Steve Gillette's "Darcy Farrow," are performed by Dame Darcy's dad, folk singer Mike Stanger, who adds banjo, guitar, and backing vocals to several other songs, including a charming version of John Denver's "Grandma's Feather Bed" starring a pre-adolescent Dame Darcy on lead vocals. The arrangements are a bit odd — singing saw and xylophone accompany the more traditional autoharp, banjo, and guitar on several songs — and because the recordings span nearly a decade, the recording quality fluctuates like mad. A version of Leon Payne's cult country classic "Psycho," by Dame Darcy and her brother Matt Stanger, sounds as if it was recorded on a cheap cassette deck, which actually adds to the creepy ambience. The album changes styles wildly from track to track, skipping from a perfectly trad version of the standard "O Death," to a Janet Klein-like version of the Tin Pan Alley hit "Beautiful Doll," to a whacked-out schoolyard giggle scored for toy piano with a plain odd bit of creepy lo-fi psychedelia called "Theme From Turn of the Century." A quirky sense of humor is evident throughout this album, but Dame Darcy clearly loves the folk music that Greatest Hits is based on, and the album should be of equal interest to adventurous folk fans and devotees of Dame Darcy's comics.

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