She’s sold millions of albums (all of which achieved platinum status in her native Eire), set scores of sales and chart records, appeared on countless television specials, and thrilled thousands with her sold-out performances at Royal Albert Hall in London and The Olympia Theatre in Dublin.
She’s Mary Black, Irish ingénue turned international superstar.
The golden-voiced songbird behind “Rose of Allendale,” “Anachie Gordon,” “Song for Ireland,” and “Summer Sent You,” returns to Cleveland on Thursday, October 30th, for a gig at the new Music Box Supper Club in The Flats.
But you better catch her while you can: Black plans on retiring (at least from the road) following the appropriately-dubbed “Last Call” tour.
Born to hardworking musical parents and raised with four singing siblings, Black rose to prominence in the late ‘70s as a member of pub band favorites General Humbert. She teamed with future Christy Moore sidekick Declan Sinnott in 1983 to record her eponymous debut—which earned critical acclaim and widespread praise in an era dominated by New Wave and hard rock. The surprise success led to several equally well-regarded follow-ups (Collected, Without The Fanfare, By The Time It Gets Dark) and a stint singing with folk stalwarts De Danann.
But it was Black’s 1989 release, No Frontiers, that saw her fame spread overseas on the strength of haunting hits and aching ballads like “Past the Point of Rescue,” “Say a Little Prayer,” and “Carolina Rua.” Black developed a reputation for being a fresh new voice in contemporary music—and a masterful, deeply moving interpreter of traditional tunes. Citing the purity in Black’s singing voice, audiophile magazines began using her CDs to compare high-fidelity sound systems. Eager (and often enraptured) distributors started phoning the emerald isle to sign her up for distribution deals in America, Australia, Germany, and Japan.
The chanteuse’s proud hubby—Dara Records exec Joe O’Reilly—was only too happy to oblige.
Subsequent efforts (Babes in the Wood, The Holy Ground, Circus) saw Black collaborate with crack musicians (Pat Crowley), ace songwriters (Noel Brazil, Steve Cooney), and legendary producers (bassist Larry Klein) in a bid to expand her sound. The gambit paid off, resulting in larger audiences, increased demand on T.V. and radio, and an enhanced press profile around the globe—along with invites to share stages and studios with Joan Baez, Van Morrison, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Emmylou Harris.
Black was less prolific in the 2000s, having struck a better balance between singing and spending time with O’Reilly and their three children. She issued the optimistic Speaking With the Angel at the turn of the century, participated in a documentary film about her remarkable life and career (Still Believing) in 2002, and released Full Tide (from her new studio in West Kerry) in 2005. Her last studio effort, Stories from The Steeples, dropped in 2011.
Black’s newest project—Down the Crooked Road—is a compilation of hits spanning some thirty years, and which features work from her days with General Humbert, De Danann, and The Black Family.
The disc also happens to be the “soundtrack” to Black’s similarly-titled new book.
Available now from Transworld Publishers, Down the Crooked Road: My Autobiography takes readers on a touching journey through Black’s childhood (in an impoverished Dublin tenement) and sprightly teens to her fabulous run as one of the world’s greatest living female vocalists. Black’s candid, friendly prose recounts the making of every album—but she also escorts fans behind-the-scenes for intimate glimpses of her time living in cramped quarters with her singing brothers (Shay, Michael, and Martin) and feisty younger sister (Frances) and school days at St. Louis Primary and Secondary Schools, where the nuns wrangled her into choir (and rapped her knuckles with rulers). Inspired by her plasterer / tradesman father, May busks on street corners with her brothers, stuffs goody bags at a candy factory, and waits tables and bartends (even when pregnant) to supplement her income.
We mourn (and perhaps identify) when Black chronicles her aging parents’ illnesses and dementia and reveals her own battle with depression—and we wince when she discusses her excruciating first childbirth and soul-rattling car crash with her daughter. But there’s plenty of laughter and triumph (and mirthful music) to offset the heartache and tragedy: Black overcomes self-doubt, building the self-confidence needed to sing in public, and eventually learns to stop questioning her talent and revel in the unique opportunities (travel, networking) afforded by her vocation. She meets presidents and dignitaries, jams with Shawn Colvin and The Indigo Girls, and teases flamboyant dancer Michael Flatley with her ragtag crew at Hyde Park. Later, Black finds fulfillment in marriage and motherhood, juggling her hectic schedule to resolve the guilt caused by prolonged separations from her children.
Don’t worry. The kids are alright.
In fact, daughter Roisin O will open for her mam at Music Box. Her first album, The Secret Life of Blue, is out now on the family’s 3u imprint.
Mary’s son—Danny O’Reilly—is the singer and rhythm guitarist in popular indie band The Coronas, whose 2010 release Tony Was an Ex-Con beat out U2 and Snow Patrol for Best Irish Album at the Meteor Awards.
Black decided to scale back her touring while writing the book (with help from Roisin), and plans to devote more time to her husband—and grandkids—during her (semi)retirement. So consider this your final chance to witness one of Ireland’s greatest exports (Guinness, U2, The Saw Doctors, etc.) live in concert, up close and personal.
Copies of the book and CDs will be available at the show. Autographed copies may be ordered through the Mary Black website (listed below).
Watch the Mary Black “Anthology” promotional video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=q-t1Psxr9To
Watch the video for Mary Black’s “Marguerite and The Gambler” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qe8Ya2kgBc
Watch the video for Roisin O’s “How Long” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpTVEcUhA50&list=PL_eoFwCrvJJ2Cbx8dwhdHvs1WGDTWEPG1
Watch the video for Roisin O’s “Here We Go” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OowTfuVA0kI
Mary Black (with Roisin O). Thursday, October 30, 2014 at Music Box Supper Club (1148 Main Avenue, Cleveland OH 44118). Doors at 6:00 P.M. show time at 7:30 P.M. Tickets $40.00 in advance ($45.00 DOS). This is an all-ages show.
Advance tickets here: http://tinyurl.com/njb9kjl
For more information visit: http://www.musicboxcle.com/ or 216-242-1250
Mary Black’s “Last Call” U.S. tour dates are as follows:
October 23-Weinberg Center, Frederick, MD;
24-Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville, PA; 25-Birchmere Music Hall, Alexandria, VA;
26-City Winery, New York City;
28-Fitzgerald Theatre, St. Paul, MN;
30-Music Box Supper Club, Cleveland, OH;
31-City Winery, Chicago, IL:
November 1-Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, CA;
3-Harris Center for the Arts, Folsom, CA;
4-Benroya Hall, Seattle, WA;
6-Katharine Hepburn Center, Old Saybrook, CT;
7-Church of Sacred Heart, Southampton, NY;
8-Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA
9-Infinity Hall, Hartford, CT
11-Holy Heart Theatre, St. John’s, Newfoundland