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Back Lane Records BLANEPR003

“Who’s that? Sounds like…um…Cara Dillon,” said my wife angling her perceptive ears to the opening track. The same purity of voice, suffused perhaps with a touch more maturity, older sister Mary’s debut album is a gentle, intimate and beguiling affair.

Seven of the 10 songs are traditional pieces from the Ulster tradition, co-arranged with Odhrán Mullan who provides several instrumental contributions. Two moving and soulful covers - Knocknashee and John Condon – pitch Mary’s expressive voice against, respectively, subtle elements of cello/piano and acoustic guitar/whistle. Finally, an atmospherically charged self-penned piece, The Boatman, perfectly animates the cover picture, an almost silhouetted profile of Niall Bruton’s Waiting On Shore monument at Rosses Point (County Donegal), which memorialises the timeless and universal angst of seafaring communities.

Indeed, there’s a general universality in the songs’ telling of the vulnerabilities and frailties of life and love in its fates and fortunes. Delicately detailed using the warmth, charm and passion of her voice, the tales are enriched by the equally sensitive and symbiotic contributions of the several supporting musicians. Varied combinations of guitar, cello, fiddle, whistle, bodhrán, piano, bowed bass, pipes, accordion, mandola and percussion are deployed with exemplary discretion. Neil Martin’s ‘Bed of Cellos’ on his arrangement of Edward On Lough Erne Shore is particularly noteworthy in providing a gently shifting and stirring backdrop of tonal colours to that beautiful voice.

Since her days with Déanta, Mary has had limited engagement with the music scene. This is a profoundly impressive way to re-activate her career.

Kevin T. Ward


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.