Mary Black, |
Song for Ireland
(Gifthorse Records, 1998)
The latest CD from Mary Black is a welcome display of her roots and an appealing showcase for her dynamically emotive voice. Composed of cuts from her previous releases, a cut from The Black Family album, and another song recorded at a 1991 concert, this is a completely Celtic music album loaded with exquisite selections.
Opening with "Loving Hannah," a slow-paced heartbreaker about a grief-stricken youth knowing in his heart that his intended has changed her mind, Black is at her best. Her presentation of this angst-driven composition goes straight to the heart of the listener. A warning to readers of this review: have tissue available when playing this cut. Pat Crowley's work on the accordion provides a nice musical background setting.
The Ewan McColl classic "Schooldays Over" is another incisive offering. Declan Sinnot's guitar work adds to the overall effectiveness of this melancholy song about a lad having finished school and now facing a future with one option: going down in the coal mines. Black's vocal inflections and the wistful sublety of this tune increase the power of the song's stark and joyless message.
The Archie Fisher-penned "Men Of Worth" has an interesting background. As the liner notes indicate, it was originally composed for a BBC program celebrating the new oil economy but was rejected due its ambivalent message of questioning the wisdom of trading a way of life for easy company money. Black's version is an uptempo, rousing, almost celebratory-sounding presentation.
Utilizing guitar, accordion and fiddle backing on "Both Sides The Tweed," Black's voice gets overridden at times although she still pulls off an effective offering of this reflective and wishful plea. As indicated in the liner notes, this is a Robert Burns poem set to music by Dick Gaughan. However, the liner notes in Gaughan's CD Handful of Earth indicate the original tune was called "Hogg's Jacobite Relics" and that he rewrote the words to gain more contemporary relevance.
Black's beautiful but haunting "The Shadow," based on the life of Michael Collins, is an image-laden, chilling rendition that fully demonstrates her vocal range. The work of Pat Crowley on piano and Caroline Lavelle increase the effectiveness of this piece.
"Ellis Island," a popish-sounding number about the separation of lovers and loved ones via immigration to America, contains a simple but emotion-laden chorus:
These are the last words I'm ever going to hear you say...."
The heartfelt message in the chorus forcefully hits every time it is repeated.
Performing a sublime version of "Song For Ireland," Black guides the listener on a visual tour of Ireland and its culture. This last cut again allows her to display her marvelous vocal ability to full effect.
Those unfamiliar with Mary Black will find this a mesmerizing introduction, while the already converted will still be pleased at the power and beauty of this collection. This release is a treat from beginning to end.