Over the course of nine studio albums, two live albums and countless concert performances in the past twenty-five years, Galway-born torch singer Mary Coughlan has established herself as one of her native land’s most enduring and remarkable vocal talents. From her break through success on 1985’s ‘Tired And Emotional’ to her internationally acclaimed ‘After The Fall’ (1997); and onwards to her faithful and poetic rendering of the songs of Billie Holiday in 2000. She has cast her meditative eye over songs of joy, sadness, mischief and melancholy; and has delivered each one with a voice that effortlessly straddles jazz, blues, chanson and pop in equal, sublime measure.
She embarks on the next phase of her career with an extraordinary new album. Entitled ‘The House of Ill Repute’ – its thirteen songs represent the end of a thirteen year relationship in Mary’s life. The album re-unites her with Dutch producer ErikVisser, whose previous work with Mary has inspired them both to career best performances on the aforementioned ‘Tired And Emotional’ and ‘After The Fall’ albums. Seldom has there been a better matched maestro and muse; as the immaculate song selection, sympathetic arrangements and matchless performances on this record reflect.
The first single is the late Kirsty MacColl’s wry discourse on misadventure ‘Bad’, an early highlight of an album that runs the gamut of emotions like a long night of Reeperbahn madness. Flirtatious on ‘Love Is Extra’, salacious on ‘Pornography’, outrageous on ‘Tootsies’; Madame Coughlan knows the intimate details of all the visitors to The House of Ill Repute. And in the cold light of the morning, we find them adrift on the emotional tundra of ‘Antarctica’ or clinging to the barren (Celtic) rock of ‘The Whore Of Babylon’.
It’s often said that an artist’s best work is made under the most trying of personal circumstances. With the release of ‘The House of Ill Repute’; Mary Coughlan emerges from the catharsis of record making, waking up to a new day; confident in the knowledge that she has produced an album which will stand up as one of the very best of her stellar career to date.