Speaking With The Angel CD Review

By Kevin McCarthy
From http://www.surfnetusa.com/celtic-folk/index.html
"Speaking With The Angel" 
by Mary Black

copyright 2000
Curb Records
Nashville, TN 37203

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/00
"Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"

Calling upon an array of songwriters, Mary Black's latest release uses these lyrical talents to sensitively thread through matters of personal acknowledgment, co-existence, healing and renewal. Enjoining Black's marvelous vocal ability to these songs makes this one of the year's best offerings as she has the ability to both delicately take a song under her wing and also powerfully seize a tune and make it her own. She displays both gifts here.

She employs Dougie McLean's songwriting accomplishments twice with "Turning Away" and "Broken Wings." Rod Quinn's rhythmic percussion and drum work drives her version of "Turning Away." "Broken Wings" has a velvety backing, with guitar, double bass, whistle, Uileann pipes and organ all subtlely elevating the tune's beauty.

"Cut By Wire," utilizes the tune "Lord Franklin." A relationship reminiscence, Black sings:

    "...And so I write you in a minor key
    Wondering if there's something left for me
    I'm only writing so that I can sleep
    I never found another love as deep

    You work in porcelain cut by wire
    Now as ever lovers walk through fire
    When we were breaking we made no sound
    The pieces almost touching on the ground"

Steve Cooney's prayerful "Bless The Road" continues the relationship theme. With a young adult about to leave home and enter the world, Black softly sings:
    "...Then go in peace and grow in grace and goodness
    Know that you have nothing to fear
    And dry your eyes my little one
    And let there be no tears
    Send me a dream from away beyond
    I promise I shall hear
    Oh beautiful beloved soul companion
    Thank you for those beautiful years

    And heaven hold and watch your way forever
    May your every dream come true
    Forgive all wrong, always be strong
    And do what you must do..."

Cooney's bouncy and upbeat "Message of Love" is one of worldly and personal resurrection. Black sings:
    "...Spirit of love, spirit of life
    Help us to be strong, help us to do right
    Here is our chance, to heal the old scars
    Learn a new way to dance to the song of the stars
    With a message of love

    I hear the butterflies dreaming, in the shimmering air
    I feel the power of life, a flowering fire everywhere
    I sing the tree, and the dove, the eagle, the fox and the hare
    The right to exist is our right, we all share
    It's a message of love..."

Recently covered by Lucy Kaplansky of Cry Cry Cry, "Speaking with the Angel," was written by Ron Sexsmith for his infant son. Part plea, part prayer, part admonition, the song depicts the innocence of a baby, one yet to be molded by the good and bad of the outside world. Black sings:
    "...He don't know how to lie
    Or undermine you
    He don't know how to steal
    How to deal or deceive
    So leave him alone, set him free
    Cause he's speaking with the angel
    That only he can see...

    He in the name of love
    He in the blood of the lamb
    He that never lays blame
    He don't even know his name
    Leave him alone, let him be
    Cause he's speaking with angel
    Speaking with the angel
    The very one that spoke to you and me
    Oh, do you remember?"

Black also offers a delectable version of the traditional tune "I Live Not Where I Love," displaying powerful yet restrained vocal strength and clarity.

Sting's "Fields of Gold" is a bonus track. Black slows down the melody of her version, utilizing her voice first and foremost to carry the tune.

This is not a celtic music release per se--Black's utilizes musicians proficient in instruments often associated with the celtic sound but this release is more a compilation of songs upon which Black applies her trademark exquisite vocals. In my book, that's more than good enough.

Black is backed by Donal Lunny on guitar, bouzouki, electric bouzouki and backing vocals; Bill Shanley on acoustic guitar, electric guitar and backing vocals; Rod Quinn on drums and percussion; James Blennerhasset on double bass and electric bass; Liam O'Flynn on whistle and Uileann pipes; Steve Cooney on guitar, didjeridu, percussion and double bass; Pat Crowley on keyboards, electric piano, Hammond and accordion and backing vocals; Brendan Power on harmonica; Frank Gallagher on low whistle, viola and fiddle; Alvin Sweeney on backing vocals; Ciaran Tourish on fiddle; Nollaig Casey on fiddle; Brian Dunning on flutes; Paddy Cole on clarinet; Laoise Kelly on harp; Liam Bradley on tambourine and drums; Lloyd Byrne on percussion; Noel Bridgeman on percussion and backing vocals; Liam Bradley on backing vocals; Liam O. Moanlai on backing vocals; and Colin Dunne with dancing feet.

Track List:

  • Turning Away (4:51) Dougie McLean
  • Cut By Wire (4:25) Geoff Bartley/John Gorka
  • Don't Say Okay (3:51) Shane Howard
  • Bless The Road (3:41) Steve Cooney
  • Broken Wings (4:57) Dougie McLean
  • Fall At Your Feet (3:34) Neil Finn
  • Message Of Love (4:03) Steve Cooney
  • Moments (3:49) Bryn Martin Haworth
  • Speaking With The Angel (3:23) Ron Sexsmith
  • Big Trip To Portland (4:31) Noel Brazil
  • I Live Not Where I Love (4:50) Traditional
  • Fields Of Gold (4:18) Sting
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