Song That Sings You Here (Challenge Records, 2012) is a bittersweet
assembly of music by vocalist Chris McNulty. The song selections and two
original compositions were developed before the death of her son, Sam.
The artist says the album sounds like it was conceived after her son
died on July 16, 2011. “I have no explanation for this except to say
that every song I sing, I sing for him. I sing him here, always.”
The core group accompanying McNulty are bassist Ugonna Okegwo, drummer
Marcus Gilmore and guitarist Paul Bollenbock. Piano duties are split by
Graham Wood and Andrei Kondokov.
Starting out with a little scat, McNulty charms and swings on “How
Little We Know.” The rhythm section backs her up admirably, assisted by
Igor Butman’s tenor sax. Butman lets the instrument fly freely during
the middle break. Bollenback also gets his moment to shine.
McNulty and her accompanists offer excellent takes on several standards,
including “Jitterbug Waltz,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “The Lamp
Is Low” and “One Less Bell to Answer.”
“Letter to Marta,” one of two songs written and arranged by the artist,
was composed when McNulty was 14 years old. With no musical training,
she learned it by singing it nightly for several weeks. However, the
song lay dormant until one recent year, when McNulty heard the voice of
Hungarian folk singer Marta Sebastyian, for whom she titled and
dedicated the lyric.
McNulty puts a lot of soul and passion into her singing, and the
musicians seem to feed off her energy, making this a charming and
delightful listening experience.