One of the benefits of being a Wild Geese member is that I am surrounded by uniquely talented and amazingly gifted individuals. I was recently asked to review a newly released CD, "Live from the 33rd County," from one of our very own Wild Geese, Mary Courtney. I have had it three weeks and it has rarely left my CD players. It goes with me from my car into my workplace, my home and into my shop, much to the delight of my customers.
"Live from the 33rd County," by Mary Courtney and Morning Star, is the type of CD that transports you to a small pub in the wilds of Ireland or, in this moment, An Beal Bocht Café, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York City, which is almost the same.
There is a quality to Mary’s voice, like the amber fire of a good whiskey, which settles into your soul and your bones. Add to that the talented virtuosos John Redman, on Button box, and Donie Ryan, on tenor banjo, along with Mary’s own immense talent on guitar and bodhrán, and it is a music lover’s own heaven on earth.
There are 11 tracks on this CD and not a sour note in the lot. I did have a moment of pause when I saw a few of my favorites on the list. They have been overdone and poorly done at times. On this CD, they have been done and done to perfection. “Four Green Fields” is hands-down my favourite song of all times. In my heart and soul, Tommy Makem, the author, sang it best. I have heard female singers make a valiant attempt, carrying it to octaves that make dogs whimper and glass shatter. So, I cringed and then I went to it first, a litmus test, if you will. Maith thú, Mary Courtney, mo chara, you did Tommy proud. I now have a new favourite version of that beloved song. “Down By the Glenside" (The Bold Fenian Men), written by Peadar Kearney and performed so beautifully by the Clancy Brothers, has been wrought even more haunting and beautiful by Mary’s dulcet tones. I find myself whistling and singing snippets of “Green and Red of Mayo” by The Saw Doctors, as I go about my day. I have always loved the Saw Doctors' version but now I have a new favourite version, as well.
I have new favourites now, as well. Songs that have been loaded into the jukebox in my heart and will always be just a nudge away from playing. These now include “Roses from the Heart,” written by Dave McGilton and Christina Henri, which commemorates the experiences of the Irish convict women sent to Australia. Mary made it her own, poignant and true. “As I Stand On This Land” stirs the rebel blood in my soul. “Mandela” speaks of those who sacrificed. It makes the hairs stand up and the soul tremble.
When you visit CDBaby to purchase this delightful CD, you will see Mary Courtney compared to the likes of Dolores Keane and Mary Black. I would have to say that she could stand either of them shoulder to shoulder in a seisún and then some. Come on along, grab your own copy and enjoy the craic agus ceol "Live from the 33rd County!" BD