- 04 Sep 20
Songs In The Key Of Life.
Life Stories’ songs are so lived-in that it’s impossible to separate them from Mary Coughlan as one of our most openly raw performers with its convincingly astute mix of originals, such as the single ‘Two Breaking Into One’, and reinterpretations. All resonate through a life lived at full throttle, with a highly personable lyrical blend of the good, the bad and the humorous aspects of humanity and what we do to and for each other.
Opening with ‘Family Life’, Paul Buchanan’s song of parting, she makes it her own with her up-close vocal, a sombre piano and tear-stained strings, while the stridently waltzing ‘Two Breaking Into One’ ticks the song of betrayal box while her own highly-percussive ‘Forward Bound’ is cheekily upbeat and Glenister’s ‘I Dare You to Love Me’ uses a jazzy arrangement for a smooth invitation to a possibly illicit dalliance. Gershwin’s ‘Do It Again’ is typically sassy in Coughlan’s hands. The piano-lead ‘Twelve Steps Forward and Ten Steps Back’ brings a touch of wartime Andrews Sisters, but if you have “waspish contemporary” on your shopping list along comes the original ‘Why Do All the Bad Guys Taste So Good’ to fill your basket. The confessional ‘High Heel Boots’ is finger-clickin’ good, with its Coughlanesque brassiness in instrumentation and a delivery that evokes the playfulness of Rufus Wainwright. There’s also Karrie O’Sullivan’s reflective, early hours ‘Elbow Deep’ and Susan McKeown’s ‘No Jerico’, both of which Coughlan explores for added layers of emotion, even bringing an ethereal quality to the latter. But beware, ‘Safe and Sound’ is unsettlingly forlorn.
With her supremely musicianly band and producer and co-composer Pete Glenister back in the chair, Coughlan has with Life Stories delivered a work that confronts life in the round and in the raw rather than offering fake panaceas. These days, we need her more than ever.