If you want to hear a song sung sweetly, they say, journey to Ireland. As the champion Irish diva in the face of some stiff competition, Mary Black has held tightly onto her crown since the early '90s and, judging by this performance, seems unlikely to relinquish it for some time to come.
This is a magpie's haul of polished performances, with writing credits ranging from old favorites Steve Cooney and Noel Brazil to Sting and Neil Finn. Her voice has certainly changed, the famously clear tone of bygone years sometimes sacrificed for a harder or breathier quality, something that increases the dramatic range of often undemanding texts, and gives us a lovelorn teenager one moment and a bitter charwoman the next. The versions of "Fields of Gold" and "Fall at Your Feet" offer a different pace and slant that provide interesting comparisons to their originals. And while it's the upbeat stomps "Don't Say Okay" and "Message of Love" that stand out on first listening, the ballad "Cut By Wire" is one of her greatest achievements so far--an enigmatic tale drawing parallels between pottery and heartbreak that is poignancy itself. Angelic indeed.