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Mary Dillon - North (Review)

Mary Dillon, North

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

MARY Dillon, a former member of Irish band Déanta, returns to the music scene after an absence of over 10 years with her debut solo album, North. The result is assured, sometimes beautiful, sometimes beguiling but also, ultimately, underwhelming.

Inspired by her passion for traditional folk songs and displaying a commitment, first and foremost, to good story-telling, this is a gentle, sedate listen that for all its narrative value could sometimes benefit from a little more pace.

Dillon’s vocals are lovely, of course. And they’re nice to listen to as she relays the often timeless tales. But the instrumental compositions sometimes leave you wanting more.

At its most endearing, the album combines playful acoustic melodies and fiddles with sharp wit and a jovial demeanour on tracks like The Banks of Claudy and When A Man’s In Love.

While her decision to give slightly more uplift to The Month of January than its more sombre, mournful better known incarnation pays rich dividends.

Another highlight, John Condon, is an old favourite of Dillon’s, given that she sung the original demo recording in 2003. But it gets a stunning new vocal here, perfectly in keeping with its harrowing account of a 14-year-old boy’s role in World War One. It’s here that the storytelling is, arguably, at its most compelling.

But for all of North‘s rich values, it’s a traditional folk album that by its very nature requires the right kind of mood and an appreciation for a more studied folk approach.

And while there’s plenty to admire, the lack of diversity instrumentally eventually proves costly, no matter how compelling Dillon’s vocals (especially on a capella moments such as Ard Ti Chuain, which also carries a Clannad vibe).

Download picks: The Banks of Claudy, John Condon, Ard Ti Chuain

Track listing:

  1. When A Man’s In Love
  2. Ballyronan Maid
  3. The Boatman
  4. The Banks of Claudy
  5. Edward on Lough Erne Shore
  6. Bleacher Boy
  7. John Condon
  8. Knocknashee
  9. The Month of January
  10. Ard Ti Chuain