'Iiln' l’la:a. (i/uvelm'. /.i' ()t‘l. l have £10 at l.adbroke’s that says one day l):Ream's Peter Cunnah will star iii a West End musical. The basis for this wager is his current live show. which is slick. effervescent and. well. you can‘t escape it. pop. Cunnah is desperate to escape the self-styled image tltat brought him fame and fortune. If he does that. though. it is likely he will find himself with a pretty small audience. Already. it is dwindling. He played Barrowland last year and was due to play there this time ttntil the gig was switched to The Plaza — but even that looks too large. Cunnah's tnain audience are also yotmg , and predominantly female. so it makes you I think that if he ever did break with pop‘s ranks then he might find himself a welcoming home as an extremely marketable Commodity in the West find.
He's got a good voice that manages to hold its own. despite all the hard’ work he gives it. He works tirelessly. and hounds about the stage in a frantic frenzy. There is certainly more entertainment in Cunnah's performance than the wishy-washy show that coffee-table icon Seal put on at the SliCC last month. The poppier elements of his new album. War/(l. like ‘Shoot Me' and ‘Party Up The World'. evoke great reactions from a crowd obviously sold on I).'Ream Val I. As for the epic singles ‘U R The Best Thing' and ‘Things Can Only Get Better'. the phrase ‘feeding titne at the zoo‘ springs to mind. Cotnpare that to the rather limp delivery and response to Seal‘s ‘Killer' and it makes Cunnah seem wholesomely credible. Cunnah‘s far too intelligent and has too much charisma to be another Chesney Hawkes. but with his interest in the pop business waning. even he may be coming to the conclusion that it's titne for DtReam to die gracefully. (Philip Dorward)
Magic of the circus
Kenny Mathieson finds Mary Black contemplating a change in direction.
Mary Black has moved frotn the folk clubs of Dublin. where she began singing as a girl. though with no real thought of pursuing a career. to the international conceit stage. In the process. she has distanced her work
increasingly from the traditional music
she performed with The Black Family. Christy Moore and De Dannan. It was the latter band. however. which first brought her to the notice of audiences outside Ireland.
‘I was with De Dannan until about With. and they agreed that I could carry on working with Declan Sinnott when they didn‘t need me. The band gave me great experience of touring. but after my second solo album I decided I was taking on too tnuch. and something had to give. I felt I needed to commit myself to one thing or the other. and I chose to concentrate on my solo career.‘
That solo career has taken off in sotne style after a moderate opening. and her newest album. Cirrus. provides another fine example of the broadly-based
appeal of her silken bttt powerful vocals 5
and increasingly pop- and rock- infiuenced repertoire. The album includes four tttnes by a favourite writer of hers. Noel Brazil. and a couple by the American sitiger-songwriter John Gorka.
‘Noel is probably the writer I have used more than any other.‘ she says. ‘and it‘s really just because I like his
Mary Black: centre of attraction
stuff. Keeping it to fottr was difficult I feel l could have done a whole record of his songs. and it seems to me that the more I have developed as a singer and a performer. the closer l have gotten to his writing. In a way. they have become part of the Mary Black sound.‘
Guitarist and producer Declan Sinnott has also been a constant in that evolving sound. bttt after thirteen years of working together. they have decided to go their own ways. in what she describes as a ‘very amicable split‘. Sinnott wants to concentrate tnorc on producing in the studio he has built in Cork. while Black is pondering which direction to go with a new producer.
‘I think a new producer will inevitably bring out a new side to me. but I’m not rushing into anything yet. I am touring to promote the album. and once we have finished those dates over the next couple of months. l'll sit down and have a good think about it. I may look
at using an American producer. bttt I really don‘t know at this stage.
‘llaving said that. while this album is pretty tnuch in the same style as the last couple. I feel there are songs on there. particularly Raven In The Storm and Raisin. which are different to anything I have done before. and sortie people have felt it was already too ntuch of a change on this one?‘
Black's success pt'o\ ides something of a role model for younger Irish singers like Sinead Lohan. one of the discoveries of the A lliwlan ".v Ht'arl project. who supports Joan Ram in Glasgow later this month. and .\'iamh Kavanagh. whose debut album. l-"lving Blair]. has just been released .~\s tar as she is concernc d. though. there w ill not be a further chapter ofﬂl Hiram: ‘s Heart. which realised two highly - regarded compilation albums of contemporary lrish women singers and musicians for the (irapevinc label. which also issues Black‘s solo albums.
‘No. I certainly haven't heard about anything more happening with that. and. to be honest. I don't know that I would want to do it again. i think that idea may have run its course. bttt everyone got something out of it. and l was happy enough to have been involxcd in it.‘
The singer has taken the step tip into bigger venues in her stride. although she acknowledges that the smoothness ofthat transition was not entirely as she
‘Wcll. we‘re not doing stadiums yet! lt
; was strange. because l didn't find ? singing in bigger halls arty more f difficult. and that surprised me. because
if you had asked me before l played one I would probably have said the opposite. l think it comes down to trying to keep on as personal a level with the audience as possible. and not
letting that blanket come down between
Mary lilac/t plays [Lilia/Hugh l'i’ﬁ'lli'd/
' Thea/re on Sun 2‘). and Glasgow Royal
(‘U/Ir't'r/ Ila/l an 7l1(’.i/ am/ Wed /.
As a Scottish musician who has played to countless audiences world-wide over the last twenty years, first in Ossian and currently with The Battlefield Band as pipes, flute, whistle and bodhran player, lain MacDonald notices a trend. ‘I see a lot more young people coming to our gigs. We used to be seen as a revolutionary folk band, the first using keyboards, drum machines and all that, but nowadays every band has percussion and synths, and I suppose all the young musicians that are coming up to talk to us atter gigs see Battlefield as a very trad band.
‘The group used to do a lot of rock covers, but since John McCusker and myself joined we’ve been consciously returning to Scottish roots, so when Alan (Reid) suggested “Macpherson’s lament” as a possible song for the new album and John admitted he didn’t know it, we realised that all
lain MacDonald: piping for the troops
those wonderful songs that you thought had been done to death in the folk revival of the 60s and 703 are just not known to today’s youngsters. We’ve also, for the same reason, recorded a version of “Tramps And hawkers”.
‘llaving said that, we were looking for something diiferent on the new album - something fresh, a bit of
spice - and that’s how we came to use
' James and (twee on drums and bass.’
Does the inclusion of a rhythm section from heavyweight dance groovers like Mouth Music and Shooglenifty mean that Battlefield are changing tack again? ‘I don’t think in the near future we would use a live drummer, but we get audiences, say, for instance, in Germany, where they love the noisy numbers, the up-tempo stuff, and we’ve even reintroduced “Bad Moon Rising” into that set, drum machine and all. Over in the States they go for a gentler approach. Every country’s different. When we visited Sri Lanka, we worked in some bodhran, including a solo set which we still do, because their culture is very drum- orientated.’
Other cultures on the band’s horizon include Poland, Australia, and a first visit to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. After the Battlefield’s November/ December tour of the States, lain heads for recording dates with friends in Cape Breton, where he will stay over Christmas, but as a true Scot, heads back home for Hogmanay. (Norman Chalmers)
The Battlefield Band play Edinburgh Festival Theatre on Sun 22.
38 The List 20 Oct-2 Nov 1995