Friday 8 June 2012


Live Review

Town Hall, Birmingham

The grand dame of Irish folk music made a welcome return to Birmingham showing her talent for harmonica playing, which believe it or not is still not that common for women musicians, on the opening number Land of Love.

Mary Black playing the bodhran,
photograph courtesy of
After reaching something of a crossroads in her career Mary Black is back with her latest album Stories from the Steeples and seems to have gained second wind which has given her the impetus to embark on her latest tour.
She told her audience, which had braved the lousy Midlands weather to see her, that she thought she had reached a certain point where she had done all the songs she could but then almost from out of nowhere more songs came to her.
I suspect it's Black being modest as she has had enough talent to keep her going for more than 25 years and hopefully for many to come.
Black gave the her loyal gathering of fans a good mixture of the old and new with songs such as Marguerita and the Gambler, All the Fine Young Men and even throwing in a couple written by her son Danny O’Reilly from The Coronas one of which was the childhood memory-inspired Wizard of Oz and then Faith in Fate, both of which feature on her latest album.
Her fans quickly warmed to Black’s easy and self-deprecating manner as she regaled them with the stories behind some of her songs most poignantly Your Love about her late mother.
She also gave a few more upbeat songs, which Black doesn't really do as a matter of course, but she did crank it up slightly for her version of Flesh and Blood she also showed her country colours with Mountains to the Sea where you almost felt like shouting yahoo and then riding off into the sunset.
Black never looks fully comfortable on stage having that endearing awkward body manner which has kept Bryan Ferry in good stead throughout many years but when she sings and chats easily to her fans you realise what a veteran she is.
The sort of middle of the road Irish country fusion music is not to everyone's taste but Black does what she does very well and there are enough fans who enjoy it to keep her in work.
Her songs are thoughtful and, unlike so much of popular music, they are wrought from experiences whether her own or of those around her and for that alone Black deserves her place in the folk hierarchy.

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