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Mary Dillon – North

Jo Cox


Finding notoriety in the 90s with the traditional Irish group Déanta, Mary Dillon slipped into relative obscurity after the split, raising a family in her native Derry whilst sister Cara launched herself with gusto at the folk world. Despite the long hiatus, save for a few guest appearances for friends and family (including backing vocals on three of her sister albums and her live DVD), she returns with her first solo album, North, a slot at 2013’s Celtic Connections in Glasgow and a run of shows with new singing trio Sí Van.

Despite some 15 years almost entirely off the scene, her vocals have lost nothing with the passing of time. Without wanting to draw too many family comparisons, there is the same familiar clarity often praised in her sisters vocal, but coupled with a maturity and warmth which makes them quite distinguishable.

Much like her voice, North is an album that achieves all it promises, coupling traditional songs from the North of Ireland with an enticing but brief slice of new and self-penned material. It is in this form that we see the real masterpiece of the album unfold, which is why it’s a shame there isn’t more of it. The Boatman hauntingly hints to another side which will hopefully be explored in albums to come. Fans will also be pleased to see a reworking of the song John Condon, about the youngest boy to die in battle during WW1, which was first recorded for a demo in 2003 and released as for Remembrance Day.

That’s not to say, however, that Dillon’s traditional performances fall short in any way. There is clearly a real passion for the music she was raised on, and each track seems impeccably judged. North may have been a long time coming, but it was certainly worth the wait and holds all sorts of promise for future albums.