Back in August, I got a note from Communicatrix Designs, where someone had come upon this site while searching around for information about “St. James Infirmary.” The reason: That firm was designing Megan Mullally’s new CD, which was to include her version of “SJI.”
I did not know Megan Mullally sang. I knew her as very funny actress, on the sitcom Will & Grace. But turns out she’s been in a number of Broadway musicals, and that this CD is actually the third that she and her band, Supreme Music Program, have released since 1998. (More here.) According to this notice regarding the group’s upcoming March 24 performance at the Zipper Factory in NY, Mullally handles “vocals, cardboard box, chains in a bowl, plastic egg, moral high ground.” (Also: Mullally is presently starring in the Broadway version of Young Frankstein.)
The group’s most recent release is now out, and is called Free Again! It includes “Up A Lazy River,” the PJ Harvey song “Down By The Water,” and “Ave Maria,” among others. And of course “St. James Infirmary.” You can hear sound clips here.
As you are of course aware, others who are perhaps best known for acting or comedy have recorded “SJI” in the past, including Lily Tomlin and Andy Griffith. So how does this version stack up? Well, it’s actually pretty traditional — not funny or bizarre like the takes by those just mentioned. Mullally can, in fact, sing. The arrangement is pretty stripped-down, mostly a very deliberate piano, and the pace stays even and slow, no big crescendos. I can’t say it revealed a new side of the song to me, but not bad.
I checked out clips of the other cuts, and while I guess I had been expecting something jokier, that’s not the dominant vibe at all. The group takes a variety of musical approaches, loungy to sort of honky tonk to country-ish to just-this-side-of rock, and I’d say Mullally’s voice works in all the settings. Who knew?
“St. James Infirmary,” Megan Mullally & Supreme Music Program