Mary Coughlan Songstress holds St David’s Hall Enthralled
The stage was set, Grand Piano and a microphone. Tonight was entertainment from the first to the last dying note. The music interspersed with waspish anecdotes about ex-husbands, alcohol, drugs, and life in all its darkest glories.
Mary Coughlan sings with a husky voice that pulls every ounce of emotion from the lyrics from songs that are an ethereal mix of blues, folk and jazz. This is ethereal of real Fearie not those with gossamer wings but of dark tales. Ancient folklore often portrayed as powerful beings who could wreak havoc on the lives of humans. These and other ancient mysteries Mary seamlessly connects with and turns into modern day living nightmares. Here conversation flows through the night giving context to the sadness and heartbreak of the songs chosen tonight. We hear about her five children ex-husbands alcohol abuse as she sips water and says her last drink was in 1993. The combination of blues fuelled jazz is delivered with a mix of ironic amusement and at times a feeling that everything that happened was just ordinary. The result was an evening of a devastatingly engaging musical journey as she sung about betrayal, love lost and taboo subjects including child abuse, sex trafficking the dark underbelly of life that breathes emotion and gritty realism into the blues.
The selection of songs were shrouded in misery with some happier numbers as she explored her back catalogue and latest studio album Scars on the Calendar a collaboration between Mary Coughlan & Erik Visser. The music covered Billie Holliday and Joy Division and so much in between. Her version of Love Will Tear Us Apart is a re-working of the music stripped down raw and, like everything her tonsils curl around, is rasped with raw emotion. Every song was special and life-affirming Ancient Rain fell across an audience absorbed in the deep silence of appreciative listeners.
Mary is back with new projects including a musical of her album The House of Ill Repute, singing the title track and a couple of numbers from the album that explores life in a brothel there is no glitz, glamour or plush red velvet. This is hard, gritty and the reality of what women’s lives in a house of ill repute is like. The highlight was the emotional a cappella delivery of Antarctic, this is vocal purity as she sings of a “rotten, stinking cheat” her ex-husband.
The encore was her slap at the world as she sings Ain’t Nobody’s Business What I Do. Having conquered many demons through her life, her delivery and choice of songs are of a woman with powerfully views on the role of women throughout society. Roots Unearthed once again delivered an evening of musical delights as Mary Coughlan Songstress holds St David’s Hall Enthralled.