Mary Mulholland & Friends


Northern Tradition


No label details or catalogue number; 52 minutes; 1996


Mary Mulholland was one of Irish traditional music’s most acclaimed piano accompanists and also, as this album demonstrates on tracks such as Cherish the Ladies/Strike the Gay Harp more than capable of playing the tunes herself on the keyboard with a certain vivacity. She was a fixture in céilí bands from the 1940s onwards, first playing around County Antrim with The Shamrock CB, then progressing to Ballymena’s Dawn CB, onwards to Tyrone’s Emeraldaires before joining the Pride of Erin CB, spending twenty-four years in their company from 1961 until the band’s retirement in 1985. Her recorded output is equally impressive and includes Brendan McGlinchey’s Music of a Champion (when will Brendan be cajoled into releasing another album?), Jim McKillop’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Séamus Tansey’s Reels and Jigs and, probably her best-known release, Cherish the Ladies, recorded in the late 1970s with the fiddler Kathleen Smyth and flute-player Peg McGrath. 


Unfortunately, the anonymous designer of the liner for Northern Tradition is clearly in league with some of the more corrupt members of the League of Opticians and sees no reason why anyone with eyesight less acute than a myopic kestrel should be able to learn more about the contents of this album or the instruments played by the musicians involved. The font employed by said designer is the smallest which this reviewer has ever encountered and its white colour on a black background renders discernment even more of a problem.


It’s just about possible to work out that, in addition to Mary, the participants on Northern Tradition include the Tyrone-born fiddler Jimmy McHugh and his son Martin on the bodhrán, as well as fellow fiddlers Maurice Bradley, Dick Glasgow, Dominic McNab, Ciarán Kelly, Niall Mulligan and Marie Heffron, together with piano accordionist Leslie Craig and singers Sheena Heffron and Margaret McIlholm. However, delving much further is guaranteed to produce eyestrain.


Nevertheless, this is an entrancing collection of music played in the often rolling style of the Ulster counties and enhanced by Mary’s sprightly piano-playing.



This is an original review by Geoff Wallis.


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