About two months ago now I got hold of _Acolytes of the Machine_ which is Mary Crowell's new CD. It's fourteen gaming inspired songs, and as you might expect given that this is Mary Crowell we're talking about, it rocks. Here's the review I put up at CDBaby--did I mention it is at CDBaby? Well it is, though I'm also going to direct you to Mary's Bandcamp page for it because just between you and me Bandcamp gives the artist a better deal, and I think Mary deserves it. But Bandcamp doesn't let you post reviews.
Anyway--the CD Baby review:
Mary Crowell's latest album is fourteen songs of irreverent fun inspired by D&D but with an emphasis on story that makes most of them accessible to a much wider audience. Mary, whether on vocals, keyboards or clarinet, is the main performer, but the cast is filled out by Jeff Bohnhoff on guitar and bass, Sunnie Larsen and Amy McNally on violin, Betsey Tinney on cello, Chris French on saxophone, Kevin Kono on trumpet and Maya Bohnhoff, Michelle Dockrey, Kristoph Klover, Teresa Powell and Brenda Sutton on vocals.
Mary's voice moves through these stories like an actor or a dancer, smooth and flexible, moving from mocking to sultry as the situation demands; a rogue of a thousand faces. Her keyboard is alternately flippant, ominous, or cool and reserved as a music box playing in an empty house. On "City of Doors" in particular (one of my favorites) it reminds me of Robin Hood, stealing the scene only to hand it back to the electric guitar with a flourish and bow.
Some of the songs are specifically about the mechanics of the game, like "Opportunity Tango" or, to a lesser extent "I Put My Low Stat" and will amuse D&D players but may be less interesting people who aren't into that. Others simply tell stories ("Shifty Screavy"), or describe places ("City of Doors") or people ("A Balleto for Rupus"); that those stories, places or people began in D&D campaigns makes no difference to the song. The stories, places and people often are a bit eerie, and occasionally contain elements of horror ("Post-Apocalyptic Blues" in which the world is full of zombies, pops to mind) but have an overall air of flippancy that tends to disarm these tropes.
This is an album that repays repeated listening, full of little gems like the violin that has its own opinion on the quality of were-rat cookery, and the background vocalist going to town on the last descant on "M is for Magic Missile." I recommend it whole-heartedly.