|Mary Staunton's music was until recently shared among her native Tourmakeady and its surrounding environs. If Bright Early Mornings is anything to go by she won't be a secret much longer. The fact is that music like hers is simply too good to ignore. Mary's accordion playing is sweet and supple and she shares with her near contemporaries Sharon Shannon and Josephine Marsh a penchant for picking unusual and rarely heard tunes as well as established classics. However, unlike Sharon, her playing has a rounder more mature approach with a sort of lived in quality similar to a well worn overcoat.
Her music is low on flash but high on musical vitamins and variation. Grogan's Hornpipe is one such prime example with Alec Finn's finger picked bouzouki and Frankie Lane's steady yet sublime dobro the result is a perfect melange of Irish and American traditional styles. A supporting cast includes Frankie Lane, Steve Cooney, Sharon Shannon herself and Matt Cranitch all adding judicious yet deft accompaniment. A feature of Bright Early Mornings is how the backings stand out, creating a diverse synchronicity of their own while not detracting from the strength of Mary's performances. When Mary plays American old timey music as on June Apple the effect is laced with a buoyancy reminiscent of Newfoundland's accordion ace Minnie White and the foot stomping revelry of La Bottine Souriante. The old war-horses like Cailleach An Airgead and An Rogaire Dubh never sounded so well matched easily flowing together and the opener Mother And Child quickly spins into cosmic overdrive. Inishcarra is a heart rending slow air adding a moment of reflection to the fire and fury.
Oh did I forget to tell you that she sings as well? She does and as sweet as a lark in fact. The title track and What Would You Do Love, a duet with new De Dannanite Andrew Murray from Innishboffin, both reveal a mix of native tradition and outside influences, particularly American, somewhere between Dolores Keane and Jean Tirchie. Sprightly accordion-lead instrumentals, with concise tasty backing and some choice, rarely heard songs, make for a sublime listening experience. A peach of an album.
John O'Regan, "fROOTS"
|MORNING HAS BROKEN
A couple of weeks ago Jack Tierney, a Roscommon man who tends bar at the Blarney Star in lower Manhattan, was telling me about a great new CD he had recently picked up during a trip home. 'Have you heard Mary Staunton?' he asked. 'She plays the accordion like Sharon Shannon and Dolores Keane.' I told Jack that I was totally ignorant of this musical wonder, but even as I spoke I was opening a small package that had been mailed to me from Ireland. As if to prove that this is indeed a very small world, the package turned out to contain a CD from - you guessed it - Mary Staunton.
Jack's glowing description was dead on (I always know he had good taste!). Mary Staunton's Bright Early Mornings is amazingly good. Top-flight traditional instrumentalists who are also first class singers are very rare birds, but Mary is clearly a member of that select flock. She also keeps some impressive musical company on her debut disc. Accordionist/fiddler Sharon Shannon, bouzouki ace Alec Finn, fiddler Matt Cranitch, bassist Trevor Hutchinson and guitarist/producers Steve Cooney and Frankie Lane are only some of the well known names in the list of credits.
Staunton grew up in Tourmakeady in the County Mayo Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking district) and now lives near Oranmore, County Galway. Her laidback, gently melodic style of button accordion playing will remind listeners not only of Shannon, but of star east Clare box player Josephine Marsh. It's a style very well suited to old fashioned melodian style jigs Staunton learned from her accordion-playing mother Kathleen and fiddling father Mattie. Her choice selection of rarely played tunes also includes the beautiful slow air 'Inishcarra' and an eccentric reel called 'The Hop Down' learned from a recording by Galway sisters Sarsh and Rita Keane.
The rich timbre of Staunton's low-pitched voice will definitely remind listeners of the Keane sistersí niece Dolores. Another similarity to Dolores Keane is Staunton's eclectic repertoire, which runs the gamut from Irish-language sean-nós gems to modern American folk compositions. The title track, a Pete Seeger original, is gorgeous, but my favourite vocal cut is Staunton's duet with Inishboffin islander Andrew Murray on 'What Would You do Love', a song first recorded in the 1930's by a Irish singer Delia Murphy and Scotsman Richard Hayward.
Don Meade "THE CRAIC"
|Mary Staunton's secret is no more. Since the launch of this album last December the whole world has knowledge of the rich diversity, which makes up one of Mayo's best kept secrets. Mary Staunton's way with a song has long been appreciated in music circles in Galway, Mayo and beyond, her prowess on the humble box has never been as avowed as now. Her imagination has run wild on the selection of material for her debut album, which vies with itself for compliments in the two camps of songs and tunes. It is indeed rare to find one so accomplished in both.
From the earthy green field of Mayo to Jesse Winchester's Blue Ball, Mary displays a talent fit to follow the greats of our time, as comfortable with an American song as with sean-nós - then to follow both with tunes which could put her great friend Sharon Shannon in the shade! Sharon, by the way, guests on the album along with Alec Finn, Steve Cooney, Frankie Lane, Matt Cranitch and Maryís sister Kate. The history behind this recording is like a history behind this recording is like a history of modern day traditional music, with sources from Cullen's bar in Galway to her grandmother in Tourmakeady, onto the beloved Boffin and across the ocean to Emmylou Harris and Russ Barngerg.
As Mary lucidly puts it: 'These thoughts just keep me moving on... the time is not, Bright Early Mornings!
Ita Kelly "VIRGIN MEGASTORES REVIEW"