Despite its title and front cover art, "Stories From The Steeples", Mary Black's first recording in six years, is not a collection of hymns. It is titled for the Dublin studio where it was recorded. These 12 new selections are, in typical Black form, an impeccable mix of traditional-sounding and contemporary material. There is an enormous list of contributing players on these sessions, but the constants are guitarist Bill Shanley, keyboardist and accordionist Pat Crowley, double bassist Nick Scott, and fiddler Matt McGranahan. The album's opening cut, "Marguerite And The Gambler", written by Ricky Lynch, is certainly informed by the spirit of Bob Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts" (though Dylan's song was certainly informed by outlaw tales of the American South that came from centuries-old Celtic balladry in the first place, so there you go). It contains a stellar arrangement that highlights piano, mandolin, and McGranahan's lonesome fiddle. Three duets are strategically placed in this set. “Walking with My Love”, an easy shuffler, is sung with countryman and Irish music legend Finbar Furey, who also plays banjo on it. "Lighthouse Light" sounds like it could have come from Ireland in the early 1960s (and maybe its melody originally did), but it was actually written by the Boston-based Irish songwriter Ry Cavanaugh; it features Black singing with the incomparable Janis Ian.
The real surprise though, is the album's first single, "Mountains to the Sea", written by Australians Shane Howard and Neil Murray. Walking the line between Celtic, contemporary folk, and pop, Black is joined by countrywoman and chart-topping rock & roll singer Imelda May. Each woman does what she does best -- May doesn't rein herself in, Black doesn't try to rock it up. Their voices, phrasing, and timbres complement one another beautifully, weaving together seamlessly on the refrain. Another highlight is Black's reading of Eric Bogle's antiwar ballad "All The Fine Young Men". There are three songs here written by the Coronas' Danny Reilly -- who also happens to be Black's son. The best of the three -- though none of them are duds -- is the sparse, skeletal ballad "Faith In Fate". Her other children, Roisín and Conor, appear with Danny on his "The Night Is on Our Side". Stories from the Steeples is a welcome return for one of contemporary folk music's finest voices and most original stylists; it is also a stand-out album in Black's solo catalog.
- Mary Black (harmonica, percussion, vocal)
- Pat Crowley (keyboard, accordion, vocal)
- Andrew Holdsworth (keyboard)
- Bill Shanley (bass, guitar, keyboard, mandolin, ukelele, vocal)
- Finbar Furey (banjo, vocal)
- Janis Ian (guitar, vocal)
- Imelda May (vocal)
- Martin Ditcham (drums, percussion)
About Pure Pleasure
At the beginning of the 90s, in the early days of audiophile vinyl re-releases, the situation was fairly straightforward. Companies such as DCC, Mobile Fidelity, Classic Records and, of course, Pure Pleasure all maintained a mutual, unwritten ethical code: we would only use analogue tapes to manufacture records.
During the course of the present vinyl hype, many others have jumped on the bandwagon in the hope of securing a corner of the market. Very often they are not so ethical and use every imaginable source to master from: CDs, LPs, digital files, MP3s – or employed existent tools from the 80s and 90s for manufacturing.
A digital delay is gladly used when cutting a lacquer disc because tape machines with an analogue delay have become quite rare and are therefore expensive. When cutting the lacquer, the audio signal is delayed by one LP revolution against the signal, which controls the cutter head, and for this a digital delay is very often employed. Of course, the resultant sound signal is completely digital and thus only as good as this delay.
We should like to emphasize that Pure Pleasure Records on principle only uses the original master tape as the basis for the entirely analogue cutting of lacquer discs. In addition, the pressing tool is newly manufactured as a matter of principle.
We only employ existing tools for manufacturing if an improved result is not forthcoming, e.g. the title Elvis Is Back, which was mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, or several titles from our Philips Classics series, which in any case Willem Makkee cut from the original masters at the Emil Berliner Studios in the 90s. It goes without saying that we only used the mother and that new tools were made for our production.
To put it in a nutshell: we can ensure you that our releases are free from any kind of digital effects and that the lacquer discs are newly cut.
1. Marguerite And The Gambler
2. The Night Was Dark And Deep
3. Mountains To The Sea
4. Faith In Fate
5. Steady Breathing
7. Walking With My Love
8. All The Fine Young Men
9. The Night Is On Our Side
10. Lighthouse Light
11. Wizard Of Oz
12. One True Place
13. Fifi The Flea