Mary Black,
No Frontiers
(Grapevine, 1989; C&L, 1999)

Mary Black's No Frontiers is filled with the rich, full voice of the Irish singer. The songs showcase her vocal capabilities, as well as the musical talents of her band. The songs are all original. The title track by Jimmy McCarthy is the most beautiful piece on the album. There is also a cover of "Say a Little Prayer," which initially seems a bit out of place, but upon hearing Black sing it in her heartfelt way, becomes a sincere love song. The final track, "Don't Explain," is a live recording that fully captures Black's amazing voice.

While most of the music has a very middle-of-the-road feel to it, there are exceptions. Sometimes it is a bit country, as with "Past the Point of Rescue." At other times it sounds very like jazz music, as in "Shuffle the Buckled" or "Don't Explain." The saxophone features quite prominently on many pieces and it often doesn't sound like it belongs there.

Aside from the regular musicians who play throughout the album, there are several guest musicians. Donal Lunny, who has produced albums for such groups as Capercaillie, appears playing synthesizer several times. Mandy Murphy and Tony Davis sing backing vocals for many of the songs. Caroline Lavelle, a noted cellist who plays Celtic-inspired pieces and has recorded solo albums, accompanies two songs.

Black's voice is truly beautiful. Singing passionately and vibrantly, she brings the songs to life. This recording is well-constructed, containing excellent songwriting and arranging, crowned by amazing vocals.

- Rambles
written by Jean Emma Price
published 20 March 2004

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