Mary Black


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She's a pop icon in her native Ireland who evokes barely a ripple of recognition in the U.S., mainly because she's spent most of her career gradually moving away from traditional Irish music (which still has a relatively small listening constituency in the States) and into the sort of Broadway-esque demi-pop that thrills Europeans and befuddles Americans. You can agree or disagree with her choice of musical direction, but there's no disputing the heartbreaking beauty of her voice. This album compiles recordings from the early 1980s, when her repertoire still consisted mainly of chestnuts like "Song for Ireland," "She Moves Through the Fair" and "Both Sides the Tweed," all of which are included here. Chestnuts they may be, but her crystalline voice and her affecting delivery are enough to invest them all with new life. Highlights include the simple and perfect "Mo Ghile Mear" and a nicely nuanced rendition of Archie Fisher's acerbic "Men of Worth."

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