Dame Darcy Greatest Hits

[Bop Tart/Action Driver; 2003]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: indie folk, anti-folk, traditional folk
Others: Beck, Will Oldham, Mary Lou Lord

Some people are just too talented for their own good. And, for the most part, this is an unmitigated blessing for the holder of such talent. The only problem enters when one is so obscenely talented that the gifted individual is so successful that he or she no longer understands exactly what the limits of his or her talent actually is. With Greatest Hits, Dame Darcy nominates herself for such a distinction.

As a comic book producer (the cult classic Meat Cake), illustrator, actress, painter, and musician, Dame Darcy certainly can’t be accused of not exploring her potentialities. Most surprisingly, then, is that she’s actually pretty good as a musician. Not in a traditional, innately talented sense, but she is an idiosyncratic talent, using her wavering croon, penchant for traditional murder ballads, and her slightly twisted take on childlike lullabies to create an album that crackles with lo-fi charm. With clucking clawhammer banjo, autoharp, singing saw, and shrill toy pianos
forming the sonic backdrop, Darcy is joined by an extensive list of musicians (many of whom appear to be family members) in creating a 29-track album whose songs vary wildly in quality, from impressionistic pieces to creaky, otherworldly gothic folk.

Like Beck’s Stereopathetic Soul Manure, these songs feel imminently tossed off and cheaply (yet earnestly) recorded, giving the impression that little more than a tape recorder and a willing spirit were needed to capture most of the them.  And that’s not altogether a bad thing, either, as (like that famously irregular Beck album) Greatest Hits swerves violently from the romping fuzz guitars of the full-band accompaniment of “Ocean” to the surprisingly faithful rendition of the traditional “Butcher Boy.”

Sure, a lot of it smacks of parody, but it’s fairly distinctive parody, and a heck of a lot more sincere and entertaining than some stiff folk purist shtick.  Further, it’s the highest possible compliment that her original compositions fit unobtrusively with the traditional material.  All in all, Greatest Hits might be a misnomer, but it would be no more accurate to call it a vanity project.

1. Ode to Joy
2. Chicken
3. Mercury Wine
4. Silver Dagger
5. The Great Molasses Flood of 1919
6. Indigo
7. Willowailie
8. Penelope
9. Ezmerelda
10. Honey Time
11. Darcy Farrow
12. Asleep in the Deep
13. Psyco
14. Oh Death
15. Orphan in the Woods
16. Beautiful Doll
17. Song by Nora
18. (Theme From ) Turn of the Century
19. Inbred Child
20. Strychnine
21. Hangman
22. Butcher Boy
23. Gold and Silver
24. Ocean (Aye Aye Captain)
25. Damn Mean (Hazlewood)
26. House of the Rising Sun
27. Ode to Joy (#2)
28. Grandma's Feather Bed
29. Untitled

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