Mary McCaslin

Goodnight Everybody

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Rarely discussed in overviews of Mary McCaslin's career, this debut album is unfairly overlooked, even if it's a little different from the sound for which McCaslin is most familiar. Actually, it's not too much different from the folkier albums she would record for Philo in the 1970s. The singing is excellent: sensitive without being sappy, rooted in folk-country but flexible enough to interpret contemporary material. McCaslin's passion for doing unexpected rock and folk songs in a folk context is already apparent with her covers of the Beatles' "Help!" and "Blackbird" and the slow reading of the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On"; in fact, she liked "Blackbird" well enough to record it again in her Philo days. The production is a bit slicker and more mainstream than what she would use on her homespun folk records, but not much fussier, despite the presence of a rhythm section (Jerry Scheff, who played sessions for the Doors, Elvis Presley, and many others, is on bass) and subtle strings. It's still understated, with a dramatic yearning quality. McCaslin did not write any of the material, another key difference between this and her subsequent work. But the songs are pretty strong, whether by well-known writers such as Lennon and McCartney, Hoyt Axton, Barry and Maurice Gibb ("With the Sun in My Eyes"), or unheralded composers like the producer of the album, Larry Murray (who wrote "Jamie," and had been in the early country-rock group Hearts & Flowers).