Even amongst the vast musical treasures amassed since the advent of recording, there are those rare works of art that evoke feelings of both the beautiful and the sublime. “Page of Cups” is such a work.
From the sonically immaculate acoustic guitar, through the carefully architectured embellishment of instruments both stringed and percussive, and finally asserted in every entangling note from that voice, the song is gorgeous. True to the title of the album to which this second single belongs—La Vita Nuova—“Page of Cups” arrives imbued with a spirit of newness. That newness is underscored by more than just the decade-plus that has passed since Maria McKee last released an album; as McKee sings “And I wonder is it kind” she sound genuinely invested in the question, as though this is all something tentative and nascent for her, too. Of course, she has the chops and the experience to put the question definitively, evoking the sublime as her rich timbres glide with stunning precision from word to word, note to note. Hear the existential import and lyrical plenitude of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, but with the lilt of Desire, but if it were written and sung by a timeless Joan Baez.
In the divination practice from which “Page of Cups” receives its name, this card signifies newness of creative energies; depending on how it is drawn, the complementary responses of eager curiosity or insecure hesitation may be interpreted. McKee explores these dual themes, but seems to conclude that the very affirmation of the value in this ambiguity lends a unique certainty to the inquiry. “When looking at it now I will be kind/And therefore never will I find it strange.” No, not strange, but wonderful. And kind? To this listener’s ear, “Page of Cups” is very kind indeed.