Mulcahy, the former front man of indie rockers Miracle Legion, opens the notes with these beautiful, tragic lines: "Melissa Rich was my wife. She died last year. We were in love and happy. We had become one thing, our own secret inside the world we invented. We knew that we were lucky."
Melissa's unexpected death in September of last year left Mark with the task of trying to continue his musical career (He last released a solo album in 2005) while trying to raise their twin three-year-old daughters by himself.
And that's where a few friends have stepped in. Even some seasoned indie rock fans are unfamiliar with Mulcahy's work, but they aren't unfamiliar with his friends and those he's influenced. With names like Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black, The National, Dinosaur Jr. and Juliana Hatfield in the lineup, this tribute album certainly deserves attention.
Ciao My Shining Star, released Sept. 29 by Shout! Factory, is 21 diverse tracks by 21 diverse artists. All the songs are written or co-written by Mulcahy, but they are taken in so many directions. All proceeds from the album will benefit Mulcahy and his daughters.
The range of Mulcahy's songwriting ability can be seen in the directions the other artists take his music. Yorke takes "All for the Best" and makes a nice electronic track that could have fit nicely on a number of Radiohead albums. In contrast, the dobro on Ben Kweller's version of "Wake Up Whispering" gives the song a feel of the Appalachians.
Dinosaur Jr.'s track, "The Backyard" sounds like a J. Mascis original with the band's reworking of it. Rocket from the Tombs takes "In Pursuit of Your Happiness" and makes a blaring Tom Waits-ian number.
The album is a strong collection that one can hope will benefit Mulcahy and his daughters in two ways. It will first of all benefit them directly through its sales. The second could be renewed interest in the Mulcahy's originals.
The strength of the tracks don't simply come from the artists performing them. Even in the voices of others, Mulcahy shines through as a touching, poetic and highly personal songwriter. Hopefully, the strength of standout tracks like Josh Rouse's "I Woke Up In the Mayflower," The National's "Ashamed of the Story I Told" and Hatfield's "We're Not In Charleston Anymore" will move listeners to seek out the originals.
"We had planned to be together always, but always has come early," Mulcahy writes of Melissa. This same honesty of emotion shines through in his lyrics.
My spin: B+
The lineup alone on Ciao My Shining Star shows it a record worthy of purchase. The people Mulcahy has influenced also shows him to be an artist worthy of a closer look, whether it be his work with Miracle Legion or Polaris or his solo albums.
Add to the 21 on the album, 20 more tracks on the digital-only deluxe version of the album, and we see Mulcahy's sphere of influence to be even wider.
The indie rock world is listening to Mulcahy. Why aren't we?
Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy
Producer: Myles Mangino
Released: Sept. 29 on Shout! Factory