Mary Black has long been one of the finest interpreters of contemporary song on this island. Indeed her past catalogue is a delightful mix of styles and writers that has garnered huge accolades and a worldwide fan base.  Her new album, sees her take some fan favorites, and some deeper cuts from her 14 studio albums, and using the original vocal, have additional orchestration added to them. 

The result is an unmitigated treat for the ear. 

When I originally heard the idea for this work, I was concerned. The songs are already damn near perfect, so why meddle with them?  Well, when the ‘meddler’ is Brian Byrne, a world-renowned composer and musician in his right, and the orchestra in question is the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, there was never a reason to worry. 

The album is a sumptuous sonic wash of delight. The gloriously, infectious bounce of ‘Carolina Rua’ is enhanced, not hindered, by the beautiful strings. ‘The Summer sent You’, simply soars, and Mary’s glorious lilting voice glides on top of the ascending brass, in a delightfully refreshing manner.  The deep longing and pathos of Richard Thompson’s peerless ‘The Dimming of the Day’ remains that totem of aural beauty it has always been in Mary’s hands. 

The ‘big’ songs in the repertoire are all enhanced delightfully, but it is the lesser-known songs in this record that are a real eye-opener. 

‘Poison Words’, the last track on her 1993 ‘Holy Ground’ album, takes on a cinematic, widescreen quality in its tale of good love gone horribly wrong. There is a timeless elegiac quality to this deeply affecting tale of heartbreak. 

“I remember when we were sweethearts.  I was with you. You were my protector.  Those days are over.  Now I need someone, someone to keep me safe from you. Love was all we had, we young and sure.  Who’d expect their love would turn to war?  I don’t know who to pity more.  How much pain can love endure?”

I defy anyone to listen to this song and be unmoved. 

‘Bless the Road’ dates back to 1990‘s ‘Speaking with the Angel’, and is a soaring benediction and commendation for a friend’s future path, with Frankie Gallagher’s original melodic whistle complementing the refurbishment superbly.  Anyone who has been lucky enough to have heard Springsteen’s cinematic soundtrack versions for his ‘Western Stars’ album, will know how richly the orchestra lifted a fine album, to new heights.

 This is exactly what Mary Black has done on this release, new life into fine old songs. Embellishing and polishing these gemstones of Mary Black’s exalted curriculum. 

Mary will showcase this beautiful album in a concert in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, with the full RTE Orchestra, on St Patrick’s day next year, in what is already earmarked as a highlight of 2020. 

‘Mary Black Orchestrated’ is out now on 3u records, or available from Mary’s website