independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

A love letter to the North and its folk song tradition

North

(Black Lane Records)

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This is a significant year for the music of Derry. It's the UK City of Culture in 2013 and, as part of the celebrations, Other Voices ventures to the shores of the Foyle next weekend.

Before then, one of the city's daughters Mary Dillon, releases her debut solo album.

North is likely to be an essential buy for those who admired her work in the 1990s with the defunct folk outfit, Déanta.

(She took more than 10 years out to raise her family while sister Cara kept the family flag flying high in terms of music.)

North is very much a love letter to Ulster's venerable folk song tradition, and her voice – clear and true – is a thing of rare beauty.

Even those who are normally quick to give trad a wide berth might have a change of heart if exposed to Dillon's lovely take on The Banks of Claudy and The Month of January.

It's a great shame, however, that North doesn't feature more original material because the two non-standards that appear are practically worth the price of the album alone.

Her sole composition, The Boatman, is a fragile, beautiful tune that suggests she may be as adept as a songwriter as she is as interpreter.

But it's the heartrending John Condon that leaves its mark the longest on the listener.

Condon, from Waterford, is reputed to be the youngest Allied soldier to be killed in the First World War. He was just 14. Dillon's song captures the futility of war as well as any you could hope to hear.

It's good to have her back.

KEY TRACKS John Condon; T he Banks of Claudy

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