Mary Black

No Frontiers

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With No Frontiers, Mary Black continues to distance herself from traditional Irish music. This time, however, she has also left behind the shimmery over-production of Without the Fanfare; the arrangements are, for want of a better word, more dignified this time, and they provide a better fit for her naturally elegant voice. As usual, several of the songs are by Jimmy McCarthy, and also as usual these are among the best: "Shuffle of the Buckled" sounds as if it were written for Black and the title track makes equally good use of her achingly sweet and clear voice. Inevitably, there is a misguided swipe at a pop classic -- in this case, a vaguely Latin-flavored arrangement of "I Say a Little Prayer for You" that is so bloodless and drained of passion that listening to it feels like an insult to Aretha Franklin. Noel Brazil's "Fat Valley of Pain" is a solid winner, though, and Donal Long's "The Shadow" is a quietly powerful depiction of the horror and loss wrought by Northern Ireland's century-old troubles. On this album Black seems to have gained control of the modern influences that had taken over on Without the Fanfare, and the result is one of her more complex and powerful albums.

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