North is the much anticipated new album from Mary Dillon who has been absent from the music scene for a number of years. As a former member of Déanta in the 1990s, the Derry singer had developed quite a following. This release will very quickly bring her back to the mainstream with an album that simmers with love, loss and mourning as she delivers 10 new tracks with heartfelt expression. Like the outstretched arms on the Niall Bruton monument that is photographed on the album cover Mary draws you in with her dulcet northern tones and a collection of great songs. 

The opening tracks When a Man's in Love and Ballyronan Maid, are traditional compositions that sound fresh and new.  The "light a fire on every shore" refrain from her self composition The Boatman is a standout track.  On The Month Of January, a familiar song Mary in her own words " tries to reflect the cruelty of the tale channelling the anger and despair of the young woman in the song." This gives the interpretation a passionate edge. Mary invests a lot of herself in these tales and stories and this unknowingly makes a connection with you to the point that you want to know what the song is about. Take another well know song called John Condon as an example. It tells a harrowing account of a fourteen-year-old boy’s role in WW1 and Mary treats it with a vocal interpretation that comes from deep within. Finding these depths take a real talent and conveying it to an audience in a way that informs both musically and emotionally is the mark of a great singer. On this track and many others this is what you get.

The accompaniment is sparse initially and grows in strength and arrangement with each new number. The guitar of Eamon McElholm is particularly effective and on many songs you would imagine that there are more contributors. There is sufficient accompaniment to support the vocal but not enough to drown it out. It's Mary, her songs and her approach to interpreting them that is the standout feature of North.  Gentle, restrained and searching for the heart of the song - a more beautiful collection of songs you will not find.   It's a fantastic return to form and comes highly recommended.

Listen and Buy : www.marydillon.com

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