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No Frontiers

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Album Review

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.


Born: 22 May 1955 in Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Mary Black is a performer equally at home singing traditional Irish folk tunes and contemporary music including blues, rock, jazz, country, and soul. She was born into a musical family as the daughter of a fiddler and a singer. She started out professionally with her brother and sister in Dublin nightclubs and then performed with General Humbert, a folk group, until 1982 when she released her eponymous solo debut. The album made it to the Top Five on the Irish album charts and won the Irish Independent...
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