None other than Thom Yorke once claimed Mark Mulcahy as one of his quintessential vocal mentors, thanks to the latter's work in Miracle Legion. And indeed, his voice is a breathtaking instrument that gives off a spiritually tortured pall, the likes of which hasn't been matched since Van Morrison counted down the astral weeks. But it is the quality of his songs that has always elevated Mulcahy into the empyrean of songwriters, and that has never stood in more specific relief than on this striking debut solo album. The stark but tender opening tones of "Hey Self Defeater" set the mood for Fathering, a nakedly passionate affair that is, nevertheless, painted in lush shades of gray. The artist sounds saddened, and, at the same time, totally satisfied -- perhaps for the first time in his career -- in these circumstances, to be going it alone. It is that rare catharsis that is as liberating for the listener as it is for the artist, a deep glance inward that reflects back out. Mulcahy's singing, with its immaculately timeworn phrasing, is that rare gift that draws you toward it even in its most anguished state, and his songwriting is stronger here than it had ever previously been. The disheveled, shambolic beauty of his melodies is rendered even more lovely by the stripped-down electric guitar skeletons that stand alone as the structures for many of the songs. It gives them a subtle glow, soulful oases on the edge of a weary consciousness. Each song is a single thread being pulled from the garment, and the extremely minimal production further dramatizes every slight twitch, culminating in "Ciao My Shining Star," a stunning falsetto outpouring with the candlelit grandeur of Tim Buckley's music. Fathering has its share of gorgeous heartbreak and bald emotions, but it is a graceful and captivating comedown for the artist. For all its uncertainty and despair, it is full of hopeful, blind faith. It is a single halo gloriously burning itself out in the dark.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart