With here first full studio outing in six years, Mary Black is back with an album on which she uncompromisingly showcases some of the most undeservedly unsung songwriters. The Coronas’ Danny O’Reilly, (coincidentally her son), leads the pack, supplying three classy tracks. ‘The Night Is On Our Side’ is very good while, buoyed by Black’s expressive vocal talents, ‘Faith In Fate’ is a true gem.

With the opener, the Dylanesque narrative ‘Marguerite And The Gambler’, Black introduces us to the songsmithing skills of Ricky Lynch: Finbar Furey joins her on the jaunty ‘Walkin’ With My Love’, creating a timeless duet that suggests they should do it again soon. Imelda May joins the fray on the upbeat ‘Mountains To The Sea’, a colourful evocation of the outdoors from Australians Shane Howard and Neil Murray. The indomitable Richie Buckley lays his trademark sax on ‘Faith In Fate’. Black and Janis Ian duet deliciously on the heart-stealing ‘Lighthouse Light’. And the album ends on a wistful note with Black’s Frenchified version of The Hollies’ ‘Fifi The Flea’.

Mary Black instinctively makes a song her own, and her voice here is more expressively fragile than before. The musicianship is impeccable, especially Bill Shanley’s guitar and Pat Crowley’s keyboards, making Stories From The Steeples a very worthy addition to an already impressive catalogue. Mary: back in the Black…