Mary Kathleen Burke,
A Song in Her Heart
(Greentrax, 2008)

The CD by Mary Kathleen Burke is a lovely mixture of old and new material. It combines traditional with contemporary music, and the songs of well-known writers with her own.

Opening with "Black is the Colour," Burke gives her very distinctive treatment to a sometimes over represented song that makes it sound fresh and new. One of my many favourites here is "My True Love." We may be familiar with a version by Kate Rusby, but listen to this new rendition with an open ear.

Burke has a knack for finding a new hook in the familiar. Nowhere is this more evident than on "A Woman's Heart." Even composer Eleanor McEvoy is quoted as finding this version "truly beautiful."

"The Home I Left Behind" has Burke taking a song familiar at wakes and weddings in Ireland of the 1950s and bringing it very deservedly to a wider audience. Intriguingly, the title track by Tim O'Connor is noted as being written after reading Burke's biography. The result is a very strong and emotional song. Bridging the heady 1960s scene and the 21st century is "Catch the Wind," originally a hit for Donovan but revitalized here.

It's a pity Robbie Burns couldn't arrange some class of posthumous royalty cheque. So many of his songs are as fresh today as when he wrote them, and with singers like Burke breathing new life into "Ae Fond Kiss" they will go on forever.

Longing for home is a common theme in folk music, and on this album it is epitomized by "My Scotsman & Thee" with the tale of longing for home, visiting home but loving someone from another land. This is an outstanding first album -- even if she waited about 30 years to burst on the scene -- and I look forward to many more.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

22 March 2008

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