- 25 Oct 19
At first glance, this might seem like more of the same – a collection of mostly familiar Mary Black tracks, road-tested over the decades. In reality, though, it’s a project that not only places Black in an invigorating, fresh environment, but also rejuvenates many of the key triumphs from her impressive and enduring back catalogue.
Partnered by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, and recorded at the NCH with arrangements by conductor Brian Byrne, the 11 tracks here show how Black’s voice still has the same evocative sparkle that enthralled fans in the ’80s and ’90s.
Opening with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Urge For Going’, Black captures the uncertainty of relationships amid the chilly onset of winter. It acts as a fitting contrast to the companionable warmth of ‘The Summer Sent You’, one of Noel Brazil’s finest, while Thom Moore’s ‘Carolina Rua’ gets a stirring orchestral intro. Both are reminders of how Black defiantly blazed a trail for Irish songwriters, by having the foresight to champion their best work on her top-selling albums. So it’s no surprise that a major beneficiary of that largesse, Jimmy MacCarthy, shows up here through two gems, ‘No Frontiers’ and ‘Adam At The Window’ – both still sounding as if they were created for Black’s voice. Black is joined by Australian singer Marcia Howard for a version of William Blake’s poem ‘A Poison Tree’, which is the least convincing track, though Black brings a winning wistfulness to Richard Thompson’s ‘The Dimming Of The Day’.
This is one project where the term “orchestral accompaniment” is no euphemism for blandness, especially with the strident end-section of ‘Turning Away’. But in the end, it is Mary Black’s voice people will come to hear. They won’t be disappointed.