STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Mary Black, one of Ireland’s most celebrated modern day vocalists, is closing a chapter on decades of concert touring with a final swing through America.
“This is my ‘Last Call Tour,’” said Black from Ireland, as she preps for her upcoming concert tour. “I’ve decided, after almost 30 years of touring, that I’m going to do one last tour of all the places I’ve been to over the years. This doesn’t mean I’m totally retiring. I still would like to sing and record in Ireland and be open to collaborations and one off projects.” “I have been very lucky with my audience in America,” added Black. “Over the years, the audiences grew and stayed loyal as I toured each year. It’s been a long career with many very special moments, and I never dreamed that I’d be still touring and singing at this stage in my life.”
A vocal master of folk and contemporary genres, Black 59, was raised in a musical environment. Exhibiting a passion for singing at the age of 8, she later became a fixture in the Dublin club scene. As a member of the folk band “General Humber,” she spent the latter part of the 70’s touring and recording before venturing into a career as a solo artist.
Black’s self-titled debut album was released in 1982, achieved Gold status and was later recognized by the Irish Independent Newspaper as one of the best Irish albums of the decade The success of her follow-up releases, “Collected” (1984) and “Without Fanfare” (1985), led Black in a more contemporary musical direction. Recognized by IRMA (Irish Recorded Music Association) as “Entertainer of the Year” (1986) and “Best Female Artist” (both 1987 and 1988), Black was awarded her first multi-platinum Irish album for “By the Time it Gets Dark” in 1987.
Black’s groundbreaking 1989 album, “No Frontiers,” soared to the top of the Irish album charts, remaining there for more than a year, earning triple platinum honors and opening the door to notoriety in America. “I don’t notice much of a difference from one continent to another,” said Black. “But, I often notice that it can vary from town to town rather than from country to country.” “I sing because I love music and singing,” added Black. “It was never about conquering America. It was just great to have the opportunity to sing there. I’m looking forward to my upcoming US trip and to touring there for one last time.”
Black’s career success has been relentless. Her “Babes in the Wood” (1991) album entered the Irish charts at number one due on the strength of the single “The Thorn Upon the Rose.” The record was voted as one of the Top 10 albums of the year by the United Kingdom’s Today newspaper. A sellout concert tour ensued, highlighted by her first ever concert appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. She was again named “Best Female Artist” by IRMA and also featured on the cover of Billboard Magazine. She next reached the top of the Irish album charts with 1993’s “The Holy Ground.” The prolific artist also recorded with fellow Irish vocalists Maura O’Connell, Sharon Shannon, Eleanor McEvoy, her sister Frances Black, and Dolores Keane. The sextet released the commercially successful “A Woman’s Heart” and “Woman’s Heart 2” albums. She also performed on a pair of songs with folk legend Joan Baez on her “Ring Them Bells” album in 1995.
Throughout the remainder of the decade and beyond, Black (once again named “Best Female Artist” of 1994 and 1996) enjoyed solo success with her albums “Circus” (1995), “Shine” (1997) and “Speaking with the Angel” (1999). Since 2000, Black’s output has included her one and only live album, “Mary Black Live” (2003), “Full Tide” (2005) and “Stories from the Steeples” in 2011.
A storied musical history such as Black’s will certainly inform her brand new autobiography, titled “Down The Crooked Road.” “Having been approached by a publishing company a few times, I decided that this was an appropriate time to write my autobiography,” said Black. “I don’t know what to expect from it, because it’s a first for me. I’d like it to be well received.” The autobiography and soundtrack, featuring 18 songs spanning 30 years as selected by Black, have been officially released as of this month.
“Being happy and having a healthy balance between my career and my home life” is how Black describes the keys to her success and longevity. “Maybe it’s because I have remained true to myself and not been influenced by the demands of the music industry.”
“I’d like people to feel the emotion of the music,” added Black when asked about her impact on an audience, “and I’d like them to go away with the feeling that they got to know the person behind the music a bit better.”
IF YOU GO
What: Mary Black
When: 8 p.m., Oct. 24.
Where: The Colonial Theatre, 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville
Admission: Tickets are available by calling (610) 917-1228 or on-line at www.thecolonialtheatre.com.
Info.: To stay up to date with Mary Black, visit www.mary-black.net.