It's early evening on a wet and windy Gaelic day. As she juggles the telephone, the person at the other end of the line is preparing dinner for her family. It's a scene repeated throughout countless Irish homes at this time of day, but the difference is that this call is to one of Ireland's most successful female vocalists. Mary Black, along with three of her Irish contemporaries, will be playing the Lobero Theatre next Tuesday as part of the inaugural A Woman's Heart tour of the States. For those unfamiliar with A Woman's Heart, Mary was eager to offer insight.

While this is the first time A Women's Heart has ventured to the United States, it enjoys quite a history, doesn't it?
It certainly does. In 1992 an album of female artists, who were mostly Irish, was released and it was a huge success in Ireland. The title track was a song called "A Woman's Heart." This was a song written by Eleanor McEvoy … She and I sang it together. It had a huge impact and the album sold phenomenally well. Since then, there have been another two albums.

What can we expect in Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara is the first gig and we are actually coming across a little earlier so we can do the rehearsals for the tour there. People are going to get a good cross-section of Irish music— be it an all-female one. Cara Dillon is a singer who has a very fresh approach to traditional Irish singing and delivers it with a gorgeous voice. Sharon Shannon is also traditional Irish, but she plays accordion and offers real foot-tapping stuff. There is also Maura O'Connell who is more contemporary. She has lived in America for a while and is influenced by American country music. And then there is me!

Traditional music exerts quite a presence even within contemporary music in Ireland. Why's that?
Its power is in its passion. Traditional music has the ability to either get you up and dance or to make you sit down and cry. And, at least for me anyway, they are the two emotions you want from music. Ireland is a musical nation and that is reflected in all forms of music. There is a huge amount of young musicians coming through all the time.

But it isn't just younger Irish musicians making a mark—you've had your first new album in some time.
It has been a while since I released a studio album, five or six years in fact. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to do another album. … I just wasn't ready; nor I did I feel the hunger to do it.

I suspect that recording the album at home had a huge bearing on not only easing you back into recording but also upon the end result?
I recorded over a six-month period down in West Kerry where I have a house. So it was lovely to be able to set a studio in my home and look out the windows and see Mount Brandon or the sea crashing against the rocks. There was no pressure and that made it a very pleasurable experience. Through that, the hunger returned. I am now really enthusiastic and everything has since fallen nicely into place. All you can do is to follow your instincts on an album and after that it is really out of your hands. You just cross your fingers and hope people will like it.

What do you hope American audiences will take away with them from an evening of Irish music?
A sample of what is happening in Ireland musically … along with maybe a few of our albums tucked under their arms!

Cara Dillon, Sharon Shannon, Maura O'Connell, and Mary Black bring A Woman's Heart to the Lobero Theatre on Tuesday, November 1. Call 963- 0761.