VARIOUS ARTISTS – Plúirín Na mBan – A Woman’s Love (Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD091)

A Woman's LoveThink back thirty years and you may remember A Woman’s Heart, the album and the song that launched Eleanor McEvoy’s career. Plúirín Na mBan – A Woman’s Love is not a sequel, although there was one, and is an entirely different concept. Originally released in 1993 with tracks dating back to the 1970s, its twenty tracks include traditional songs in both Irish and English, instrumentals and the sort of Americana that the Celtic nations seem to do so well, all performed by distinguished Irish female singers and musicians. I don’t know much about it and the only notes are in Gaelic but I’ll do my best.

The set opens with the mighty voice of Mary Black singing ‘Fare The Well, My Own True Love’ with her band General Humbert which also featured her brother, Mick. It’s enough to make you settle down and listen to some more. Americana next with ‘Casting My Shadow On The Road’, the first of two songs from Sinead Murray. Ann Mulqueen’s first song is in Irish with one of those tunes you know you’ve heard before and her second is ‘My Bonny Irish Boy’

The first of the instrumental sets is a pair of reels from Mary O’Sullivan; ‘The Liberation Of Sheelanagig/Grannailes Legacy’. I made me smile because, if you’ve seen an image of Sheelanagig you’ll know why she needs liberating – or perhaps doesn’t. ‘Johnny Lovely Johnny’ is the first of two songs from the haunting voice of Dolores Keane and we return to the Irish with Bríd Ní Chatháin and Eilín Ní Bheaglaoich sandwiching Nancy Roach’s fiddle tune, ‘Memories Of Father Angus MacDonald’. Mairead Taggart sings ‘The Workin’ Man’ by Canadian songwriter, Rita McNeill, another powerful song, followed by Ann Marie Nic Dhonncha with ‘Cré na Cille’.

That’s ten names and now we go round them again. Mary Black switches to Irish and Ann Mulqueen changes to English but otherwise it’s pretty much as you were. Most of these tracks are hard to find elsewhere – I had not heard most of them before – and every one is a gem in its own way. Why is it that Irish song melodies always sound so familiar and comforting?

Dai Jeffries

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‘Fare The Well, My Own True Love’ – Mary Black with General Humbert:

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