Mary Fahl. Photo by Lisa Hancock

Mary Fahl’s Friday night show in Portland won’t be her first appearance in Maine, but it will be the first one with a full band and the first one since releasing the covers album “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” last summer.

I’ve been a fan of singer Fahl for 30 years, since first hearing her as lead singer of former band October Project.

Back then, I thought to myself that I had never heard a voice quite like hers and played the band a ton during my Keene State College radio show.

Now it’s 2023, and I’m still saying that her contralto is something otherworldly.

Fahl, who is from Stony Point, New York, and now lives in Pennsylvania, plans to play the entire “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” album at her One Longfellow Square show, as well as a few songs from her long ago October Project days and a handful of originals from her solo discography.

I think “Can’t Get It Out of My Head” might be the best thing Fahl has ever done, and when I told her that, she agreed.


With songs, and not just hits, from the likes of The Mamas & The Papas, Richard & Linda Thompson, Pink Floyd, Judy Collins, The Rolling Stones, Nick Drake and a few others from the ’60s and ’70s, Fahl has struck gold, because she understands how much nostalgic currency music has.

“I love all these artists, they were so pivotal. I learned to play guitar listening to Neil Young,” she said.

Fahl fondly recalled the time when she was about 12 and ordered a dozen records from Columbia House for a tiny sum of money. “A lot of what’s on this album came from those first records I bought.”

Others came to Fahl by way of a cafeteria jukebox and listening library at her Catholic high school, including the title track from Electric Light Orchestra’s 1974 album “Eldorado.”

Fahl’s version is at a slightly slower tempo, and her voice starts its divine ascent almost immediately. The notes are stretched out, but it’s not a radical departure from ELO’s version, which was an intentional choice by Fahl, whose focus is on inhabiting the song rather than radically reinventing it.

Fahl’s take on The Moody Blues’ 1967 track “Tuesday Afternoon” has a mystical feel to it, because Fahl’s vocals take already poetic lyrics and turn them into something sacred.


The same can be said of her interpretation of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” The song has a sense of urgency to it as Fahl sinks her teeth into the words while strings, guitar and drums swirl around her.

Fahl told me she’s been singing her entire life and listened to – and sang along with – a lot of Mama Cass and Petula Clark songs, as well as show tunes. One album in particular played a key role: the original cast recording of “South Pacific.”

“I sang along with that record and developed my voice, and this changed everything for me,” she said.

Fahl will be accompanied Friday by Mark Doyle (guitar and piano), Josh Dekaney (drums), Edgar Pagen (bass) and Jim O’Mahony (keys).

Mary Fahl
8 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $30 in advance, $40 day of show.

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