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Chris McNulty: Eternal

Dan Bilawsky By

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Eternal is a work of love and loss, a celebration of life, and a poignant piece of artistic expression. Vocalist Chris McNulty crafted this album as a tribute to her son, Sam, who passed away in 2011.

This album took shape in the days following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as McNulty, with no electricity, heat, or running water, sat with her thoughts and selected songs that reflected the complex emotions that were running through her. In the end, despite dealing with the fresh and never-ending pain of losing a child and the devastation following the storm, the songs that McNulty chose weren't about darkness and pathos: As McNulty herself notes, "Eternal is a collection of songs full of light, love, creativity, beauty and humility."

The music on Eternal is brought to life with clarity by a jazz trio melded with a chamber ensemble. Pianist John di Martino put together nine arrangements for the trio while Steve Newcomb arranged three of the pieces and did all of the orchestrations for the strings and winds. The resultant blend is beautiful and seamless, as sensitivity reigns supreme.

The material is a mixture of familiar songs that resonate with McNulty, classics seen in a new light, and lesser-known numbers that perfectly mirror the singer's feelings. There's Steve Kuhn's "The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers," a rarely-performed piece with lyrics that seem tailor-made for the occasion; "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?," taking on a new lease on life as a haunting tribute; "Stardust," painted with complex hues and wistful vocals; "On A Clear Day," which proves to be the most uplifting number on the album; and "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," an understated yet powerful finale.

While Eternal can certainly be appreciated as a blind listen, this music takes on deeper meaning with knowledge of the backstory. Art can certainly be separated from the circumstances that produce it, but in this case, it probably shouldn't be.

Track Listing: The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers; A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?; Where Is Love?; You Are There; Stardust; Nature Boy; Yesterday I Heard The Rain; Love Came On Stealthy Fingers; On A Clear Day; With Every Breath I Take; Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.

Personnel: Chris McNulty: vocals; Steve Newcomb: orchestrations (1-11), arrangements (4-6); Mazz Swift: violin; Josh Henderson: violin; Amanda Lo: violin; Trevor New: viola; Meaghan Burke: cello; Marika Hughes: cello; Jodie Rottle: flute, alto flute; Ivan Barenboim: clarinet, bass clarinet; John Morgan-Bush: French horn; Ben Wendel: bassoon; John Di Martino: trio arrangements (1-3, 7-12); John Di Martino: piano; Ugonna Okegwo: bass; Gregory Hutchinson: drums; Paul Bollenback: guitar; Matthew Jodrell: trumpet.

Title: Eternal | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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