On Mary Black's seventh solo album, CIRCUS, the usually upbeat singer explores the complex themes of isolation and loneliness within relationships. Still sticking to her Celtic roots, but with a decidedly modern twist, she opens up vocally in a deeper way than previously, making the album an empathetic experience for anyone who has ever felt the pain of life and love.
The title song, written by long-time collaborator Noel Brazil, makes good use of the circus metaphor to show how its underside can still contain a well of emptiness. Mary Chapin Carpenter's wistful "The Moon and St. Christopher," where an older woman looks back at her younger stubbornness and how she may have run from love, is interpreted with a air of sadness; in "All That Hammering," Black sings how she never trusts happiness and always prepares for the worst. Song after song sheds light on the desperation of a lover leaving or a couple deciding that it is time to part. There is something so personal about each of the songs here that, at times, Black's hushed, fragile tones sound more like a friend's whispered confidences.