Many grew up on the tones of Bob Dylan blaring from their parent’s CD players; for me, it was Mary Black. She was infact the first person I ever went to see in concert and has helped since to shape much of my musical taste. Mary Black, who has for years been heralded as having the purest voice in Ireland, has just released Stories from the Steeples; after almost seven years of no original albums being released.
Stories from the Steeples is an example of a performer ageing gracefully in their music. Her voice does not posses the purity that it once had but instead it is imbued with the wisdom of a true storyteller. It is not a ground breaking album, it is never going to be my favourite Mary Black album, but it flows well and there are some superb songs. The Night Was Dark And Deep is a personal favourite, to which I would love to go to sleep to, for all the best reasons! With a slight change of pace, Black’s collaboration with Imelda May on Mountains To The Sea is another standout. It highlights her ability to turn her hand to many different styles of music, and in the tradition of true folk music, collaborating with others – something Mary Black has never been shy of!
We must remember that the master of female Irish folk is at work here. There is not one Irish female folk artist that doesn’t owe something to Mary Black, therefore I can only judge her in comparison with her past work. Stories from the Steeples is a positive progression into the future for Mary Black. Her voice is no longer what it was, but what has replaced this is a voice tinged with age, which is no bad thing. Put it this way, I would never turn down a chance to go see Mary Black, and I would be more than happy to hear songs from this album live, but I would be secretly hoping that some of her old classics came out too!