An Intimate Brooklyn Show by the Hilarious and Haunting Honor Finnegan

by delarue

Singer/ukulele player Honor Finnegan self-effacingly calls herself “the Susan Boyle of quirky indie folk, only hotter.” Vast understatement on both counts. Finnegan has a stiletto sense of humor, can’t resist a devious pun or double entendre and sings in a dramatic yet nuanced soprano, drawing on a theatrical background that dates back to her childhood. The songs on her latest album Roses and Victory – streaming at Bandcamp – span from jaunty swing, to country, jazz and Celtic-tinged balladry. She’s playing this Friday, March 11 at 8 PM at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture at 53 Prospect Park West. Cover is $10; take any train to Grand Army Plaza.

The album opens with an irresistibly coy Hawaiian swing number, Fortune Cookie, Finnegan’s voice rising to a gale-force cabaret delivery as her ravenous, Chinese food-fortified narrator weighs the possible promise of predicting the future:

I don’t have a predilection
For your crunchy sweet confection
I don’t want to learn Chinese
Lucky numbers only bore me…
I know there’s no Prince Charmin’
But I know there’s no harm in
Fortune cookie…

Paul Silverman’s accordion soars throughout the wryly galloping, Celtic-tinged The Librarian, possibly the only song ever written that mention a ISBN:

The Book of Love is still on hold
I searched in every single stack
Maybe someone’s forgot to bring it back

Aviv Roth’s leaping dobro and electric guitar team up with Pete Donovan’s bass and Eric Puente’s drums in Movie Star, a rapidfire hillbilly boogie that brings to mind Amy Rigby at her most hyper. By contrast, Swimming opens on a dead body floating in the river, a stark Irish ballad infused with broodingly resonant cello. Finnegan may be best known for her irrepressible wit, but her strongest material may be the dark stuff and this is a prime example.

Roth takes centerstage on dobro again on Take Me, a soaring, vintage C&W shuffle. Then Finnegan pulls out all the stops for In Bed. Conflating sex and religion is as old as punk rock, but this mighty gospel anthem takes it to the next level, Finnegan joining voices with the choir of Catherine Miles, Carolann Solebello and Karyn Oliver to bring the song completely over the top. The song that’s going to make everybody’s playlist is I Should Stop Having Sex with You, a familiar tale about a girl who can’t stay way from Mr. Wrong, set to bouncy Bacharach bossa-pop.

The witchy, vengeful folk ballad Stark as Stone sounds like a classic from centuries ago. Finnegan puts her own dynamic stamp on a cover of the moody jazz ballad When Sunny Gets Blue that stands up alongside the iconic Jeanne Lee version, no small achievement. The album winds up with the catchy, upbeat folk-pop number Wishing Flower. Can you think of another artist who’s this eclectic, haunting and hilarious, all at the same time?