MARY BLACK

THE BEST OF MARY BLACK 1991-2001
INCLUDING SPECIAL EDITION BONUS CD: HIDDEN HARVEST

Mary Black insists on making music that is full-bodied and refreshingly eclectic. She's a singer who's never confined herself to the predictable, whose appetite for adventure has blossomed in more recent years, wooing her down unlikely paths and boreens, to sample of the unlikeliest fruits imaginable.

Returning to the fray with a mammoth 16 song collection, drawn from the last decade of her career, Black's repertoire shines brighter than ever. The gods rarely smile so sweetly on singers, but Mary Black's been luckier than most in the riches she's inherited from writers as disparate as Jimmy McCarthy, Noel Brazil, Ron Sexsmith and Richard Thompson.

Listen to the covetous lustfulness of 'Summer Sent You' or to the big sound that is Scott Cutler and Annie Previn's 'One And Only', and hear two vastly different pen pictures of a singer as much at ease with minimal interference at the mixing desk, as she is with the fullest studio production. Whether it's Larry Klein or Donal Lunny, Declan Sinnott or Steve Cooney occupying the producer's seat, she manages to merge her vocals in distinctly different shapes and shades with the song, and yet still maintain her own identity as a vocalist whose first allegiance is always to the song.

And just when you think you've acquainted yourself with the depth and breadth of her repertoire, she offers up two new recordings plus a bonus CD, a mix of live tracks, duets and studio cuts not previously available on Mary's albums. This is a peep behind the curtain: Robbie Burns' gorgeous 'Ae Fond Kiss' sidles up alongside her live duet with Joan Baez on Dylan's seminal 'Ring Them Bells'; a resonant tribute to Billie Holiday in the form of 'Good Morning Heartache' nestles cosily a few footfalls from Sandy Denny's 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes'. And her gorgeous reading of 'Sonny' alongside Emmylou Harris and Dolores Keane (an outtake from Philip King's 'Bringing It All Back Home' sessions) interlocks effortlessly with a live take of 'Once In A Very Blue Moon'.

The best thing about old friends is that just when you think you know them so well that you can predict their every move, they confound you with the unexpected. Mary Black's proven that she's got a rake of surprises tucked up her sleeve with this fine double CD release. Whether for the occasional visitor to Black territory, seeking a tincture of those soulful vocals, or for the completist anxious to test and taste as much as possible of her full-blooded repertoire, this release is balm for the soul.