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Mary Coughlan on Wednesday 12th December 2018
For Mary there will always be two falls. The first thing that happened in Mesopotamia about 5000 years ago, we are told. The second happened in a seafront house in Bray, near Dublin, around 1994. In the first, Eve was expelled from Edens for her sins, and women have carried most of it ever since. In the second, a tall pregnant and very drunk Mary Coughlan fell on her kitchen floor in a dous, a piece of bread and butter stuck to her unconscious face. That's how her husband and three children found her when they returned from shopping. The next night Mary was brought to the hospital where she aborted. And she has carried most of it ever since.
But that's not why Mary Coughlan is the biggest singer that these islands have ever produced. It's not even why she stands next to, or even between the pretended, violent but unbeaten giants in jazz chanson on both sides of the Atlantic, Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf. Mary Coughlan is the only singer these coasts have produced to rival the largest of European cabaret and American jazz club blues due to one thing: her voice. She is outstanding in mixing whiskey-blurred, smoke-seared, husky notes and laconic humor by Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee and the series of deep down and dirty blues singers back to Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith with the sarcastic, bitter sweetness and despair of Piaf Chanteuse, born out of war, in the shadow of Brecht, in war with the world, men and eventually himself.
And the most remarkable thing of all is her quarrel with Ireland. She obviously denies the Irishry scene that lasts this day in Riverdance, U2 and The Corrs. But in her studded consonants, lush plosives and Dub dipthongs she is nakedly Irish, Galway born, daughter of a Donegal soldier and a Connemara woman. Yeats wrote: 'Out of our interference with others, we do rhetoric. Out of our quarrel with ourselves, we do poetry. 'Out of her quarrels, Mary Coughlan has done some of the best music in these isles for twenty-five years. And it's time she was praised for it.
Music Genres: Blues, Folk
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