Friday, February 17, 2012

CD Review: “Stories From The Steeples” by Mary Black

mary Black

Stories From the Steeples

Mary Black could have named this album, Stories from the Hall Of Fame. She I join for duets on three tunes by the revered vocal likes of Janis Ian, the Irish legends, Finbar Furey and Imelda May, who has topped the Irish charts more than once.

And the tunes. Ahh, the tunes. The song writers are amongst the best breathing. “Fifi The Flea” by the Hollies, Graham Nash, Tony Hicks and Allan Clarke, Australia’s own Paul Kelly. There’s three tunes written by the lead singer of the Irish Pop/rock group The Coronas, proving that Danny O’Reilly is more than just a rocker.

And it’s fitting that Black receive this kind of support. Mary Black was a star in Ireland in the late ‘70s as a member of general Humbert, and in the early ‘80s she went solo. But it wasn’t until 1990, after winning the Irish Independent Arts Award For Music, that she crossed the pond. In ‘89, she cut the multi-Platinum album, No Frontiers. She was gaining audience and critical acclaim throughout the world. With sellout crowds in the U.S., England, Europe, and Japan under her belt, she cut the album The Holy Ground, which was certified Platinum the day it hit the streets.

That success brought the opportunity to not only bring her music to America, but a chance to headline along side legendary performers such as Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter and fellow countryman, Van Morrison.


“Ring Them Bells” Mary Black & Joan Baez

You can tell from the video above that Mary Black sings traditional and contemporary folk songs. This isn’t the “new age” Celtic songs of Enya, nor is it the pop/rock of Sinead O’Connor, though in Ireland she is considered as much of a star female vocalist as either of them.

The songs on Stories From the Steeples are brilliant and  beautiful, celebrating love, life, loss and struggle. Black’s voice is at once, strong yet fragile. It is so pure that it is easy to see why in the UK it is used to compare the fidelity of other musical offerings. When she sings a song like the anti-war plea, “All The Fine Men’ you can feel the sorrow, but also the hope. In the Ricky Lynch penned “Marguerite And The Gambler” you can feel the longing and lust in the doomed love affair. An innocent, beautiful girl is in love with a rogue gambler, and her father tries to save her.

When she sings the Imelda May Irish chart topper, “Mountains To The Sea” she makes it her own. And one of my favorite is the Paul Kelly tune (who we reviewed last summer, here on these pages), “the Night Was Dark And Deep”. Black turns this tune into Irish Soul music.

The album comes in two beautifully produced editions, Stories From the Steeples is the standard CD complete with a booklet where Black talks about what each song means to her, and she credits a long line of musicians as well.

Stories Spcl Ed

And Stories from the Steeples: Special Edition which a Special 'book' edition includes three bonus tracks. It is beautifully created by Blix Records, who brought Black to the states way back when.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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