Mary's Muse

By Scott Alarik, Boston Globe Newspaper

When Mary Black, Ireland's best-selling recording star, visits the Symphony Hall on April 6, she will undoubtedly sing a piece by local folk hero Geoff Bartley, who hosts the Cantab's Monday open mike and Tuesday bluegrass jam. On her new Curb CD, "Speaking with the Angel," she recorded the beautifully melancholy "Cut by Wire," which Bartley wrote with John Gorka. Black was inspired to record it after hearing Bartley's "One Kind Word" CD (Waterbug). In a supreme compliment, the singer, known for her distinctive interpretations, wrapped her arrangement entirely around the mood of Bartley's elegiac guitar part.

"It sounds to me like she liked the song and sang it with a lot of feeling," Bartley said. "You can tell that Billy Shanley really listened to my guitar part and pretty much played it the way I intended it. I was very flattered by that." He said the song was based on an old love affair: "Nothing in it is made up. But it was written about 50-50 by John and me; we just sat around the kitchen table one day after breakfast and wrote it."