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Mary Dillon – 'North'

“North” from Mary Dillon is this week”s Album of the Week commencing Saturday 30 March 2013.

Listen in on Saturday from 12 noon and midnight and from 6.00pm on Monday 1 April to hear Mary Dillon talk with Alex Jenkins.

Mary Dillon’s debut solo album , is one of the most eagerly anticipated folk albums of the year. A former member of Irish band Déanta in the 1990s, the Derry singer has been absent from the music scene for over a decade, but returns in 2013 with a renewed energy to showcase a diverse collection of folk songs from the Ulster singing tradition.

Having spent the past 15 years raising a family, occasionally stepping into the studio to lend guest vocals to some of her friends’ projects, Mary is ready to rejoin her internationally-acclaimed sister Cara as one of the torch bearers of Irish traditional singing.

Twice winner of the All-Ireland Singing Trophy by her mid-teens, Mary came from a background immersed in Irish traditional music. “Both of my grandmothers were traditional singers – something I wasn’t aware of until I started singing with Déanta years ago. One day I came home with a song we were recording and my mother stopped still in the kitchen and told me that her own mother used to sing that very song” says Mary.

The passion for collecting traditional songs is something that has clearly been passed down through generations in the Dillon family: “Cara and myself always have a good chin wag about which ones are the nicest and why. We were also taught traditional songs as part of our primary school education. Music was everywhere.”

The songs on the album encompass a wide range of themes and settings, with the central focus being on characters and a good story. “Many traditional songs take the form of a conversation between a woman and a man” says Mary, “so by imagining the scenes playing out in my head I find it’s easy to get the right feel when recording vocals.”

Fans of Mary’s previous work will be familiar with the song ‘John Condon’, a harrowing account of a fourteen-year-old boy’s role in WW1. Having sung the original demo recording of this song in 2003, which subsequently became something of a modern folk classic, she has re-recorded it with a stunning new vocal on North.

As well as ancient traditional songs, the album includes recent compositions, including her own song, ‘The Boatman’.“Like many other songwriters I like to write about what really matters to me: life experiences, people, places. Some emotions are best expressed through song, and so it can be a cathartic process.

All of the songs on the album are linked to the North of Ireland, some of which I have carried with me since childhood says Mary, so it

felt right that the album title should give a nod to the rich singing heritage we have.”

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