Album Review: Michael Black by Living Tradition

From Living Traditions, Issue 76

As one might expect from a member of this notorious Irish musical family, Michael Black's debut solo album is furnished throughout with assured and accomplished vocals that are a delight to the ear. On offer here is a discerning fusion of contemporary and traditional material -- Michael's sound is decidedly organic, ranging from ballads of sublime beauty to boisterous shanties.

The captivating passion in Michael's voice is at its most potent on his charming rendition of "The Willow Tree," made all the more enchanting by the presence of Mary Black's divine harmony vocals and Seamus Egan's haunting flute. Further conviction is demonstrated with the mournful "Coming Of The Roads," lamenting the loss of a simpler life and the ravaging of nature in the name of progress and wealth.

Elsewhere, Michael sings of notorious Irish characters, such as "Tarry Flynn," a character from Patrick Kavanagh's biographical novel of the same name, whilst also embracing a host of issues, dealing with war on "The Deserter" and bullying on "Don't Laugh At Me."

Michael is joined by a capable cast of supporting musicians, not least John Doyle, who also takes the production credits -- and a fine, well-judged job he's done here. Doyle's renowned guitar playing is present throughout, with Michael's own banjo augmenting a handful of tracks, alongside a sympathetic backdrop of predominantly fiddle, accordion and whistles.

This is an enjoyable collection with a breadth of material to engage and entertain, and containing more than just a couple of jewels that will demand a repeated listen.

My review of Michael Black's eponymous debut album is featured in issue 76 of Living Tradition. I've long been an admirer of Michael's sisters, Mary & Frances, and this release proves that the Blacks are a whole family blessed with musical magic!

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