Birchmere Music Hall, Alexandria, VA - November 10, 2010.
Roisin O - This singer/guitarist hits the stage to open the show. I had not noticed the billing and eventually learned this was Mary Black's daughter. Roisin's brother is also in the Coronas, so the family is certainly doing well with their music.
Her first song was quite nice with strong vocals and decent enough finger style guitar, although the volume extremes between the different strings seemed a bit distracting. On the second song, her mother's guitarist took over guitar duties. The bassist and drummer joined in for the last two of the five songs. The songs smoothed out a bit and I especially enjoyed a gutsy rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Carey". This was quick, but an effective beginning for the show.
Good laugh line from Roisin: "This (song) is from my ep, being sold somewhere outside, and it's only $10, and I'm a student..."
Mary Black - With no pause, Roisin introduced Mary Black who came up with a keyboardist and a sax/keyboardist joining the three already on stage. Although she played a bit of bodhran at the beginning and end, obviously her vocals are what the people in this crowded hall came to hear.
I have followed Mary Black's work years ago with De Dannan and even General Humbert, but have not closely followed her solo work. What was interesting to me was how universal her sound is. There are certainly Irish touches and plenty of roots, but most songs had a classical folk sound mixed with a clean lounge jazz and light rock combination. The band were all smart players and the sound was clear allowing the soaring vocals to be on top without too much overkill.
Black has an interesting tremolo quality to her singing and is a good interpreter of the material she chose. She debuted a song which she had never played before which was impressive (and successful). She did a really nice "The Dimming of the Day" by Richard and Linda Thompson. Her vocals sounded closer to Richard in spirit, but again she was interpreting it nicely. She covered several Noel Brazil songs and spoke fondly of the late Irish songwriter, who I did not know but reminds me perhaps of a similar songwriter/performer, Alan Tunbridge.
The evening went well with a brief break and long second set. The crowd enjoyed it thoroughly and Mary Black seemed quite sincere with her enjoyment of playing in this area at the Birchmere. It was a good night as I think I personally needed some quality Irish music in between some of my recent rocking sets.
First published @ dcrocklive.blogspot.com.
Photo Credits: (1) Roisin O, (2) Mary Black (from websites).