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MARY MCPARTLAN - From Mountain To Mountain

MARY MCPARTLAN - From Mountain To Mountain
Private Label MCPP003

This crowdfunded production from one of Leitrim’s best known singers is subtitled A Tribute To The Legendary Jean Ritchie and features a galaxy of supporting musicians and singers from the worlds of Irish and Appalachian folk, as well as from jazz and Afro-American music. So the expectations are pretty high.

The tracks that work best are those that follow either the Irish or the Appalachian path, or a blending of both, where Mary’s strong and unmistakable singing is supported and augmented by the likes of Seamie O’Dowd and Cathal Hayden – great stuff.

Mary has described herself as an “experimental innovator” and experiments by definition don’t always produce perfect results; attempts to fuse different musical genres can be risky. Jean Ritchie’s music was characterised by the purity of her singing and her guitar and Appalachian dulcimer accompaniments – classic bluegrass material – and some of the tracks here don’t seem to bear much relationship to the dedication on the cover. The imposition of a jazz regime on songs like Lord Randall and Shady Grove is, in my view, questionable, and the strange percussion on One I Love is disconcerting for the listener, while the Afro-American improvisations often dominate the song rather than commenting on it.

For me, some of the experimental innovations were a step too far. I quite accept that this may well be more of a comment on my personal musical tastes than on the recording itself, but it is a fact that songs that have grown and matured in one musical tradition don’t always sit easily in another. However, if you enjoy a more innovative approach to your music, this could well be just your taste.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.