In 1984, Mary Black was invited to join De Dannan by one of its founder members, Alec Finn. De Dannan were already established at that time as one of Ireland’s leading folk bands. Black was drafted in as vocalist and had already recorded Song for Ireland with them the previous year.
She recorded Anthem with De Dannan in 1985. It was a huge success and was voted Irish Album of the Year.
During this period Black won numerous awards. She was the Irish Recorded Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1986, and its Best Female Artist in 1987 and 1988.
Mary Black Without the Fanfare
Black continued to produce solo work even while working with De Dannan. In 1984, she released an album called Collected, which contained classic traditional numbers such as Mo Ghile Mear and She Moved Through the Fair, as well as Song For Ireland.
Another solo album, Without the Fanfare, followed in 1985. This also featured traditional numbers such as The Water is Wide but also maintained Black’s leaning towards more contemporary songs such as There’s A Train That Leaves Tonight, State of Heart and Diamond Days by modern writers such as Declan Sinnott and Jimmy McCarthy.
No Frontiers and By The Time it Gets DarkBy 1987, Black had left De Dannan and released her fourth solo album, By the Time It Gets Dark. It continued her move towards more contemporary music and went platinum, making it her most successful album up to that date.
However, it was quickly surpassed by her next album in 1989, No Frontiers. It went straight to the top of the Irish charts and stayed there for 30 weeks, becoming one of the best selling Irish albums of all time.
It featured all new contemporary songs, mainly by Irish writers but there was also I Say a Little Prayer For You by Bacharach and David, showing that Black was broad in her tastes and quite happy to venture into pop music.
At the forefront of Irish music
More successful albums followed in the 1990s including Babes in the Wood (1991), The Collection (1992), The Holy Ground (1993), Circus (1995), Shine (1997), and Speaking with the Angel, which was recorded in Los Angeles in 1999.
This also contained some pop classics such as Fields of Gold and Fall At Your Feet, as well as a selection of new songs by contemporary writers.
These albums cemented Black’s position at the forefront of Irish singing alongside such names as Sinead O’Connor and Enya.
An artist for the 21st century
Black’s popularity continued in the new century, although she didn’t record as much as she did earlier in her career. She released Mary Black Live in 2003, and there were two compilation albums before she released Full Tide in 2005. It was her first studio album for six years.
She showed her skill as a songwriter on the tracks like Your Love and Stand Up.
It was to be another six years before Black released her next album.
Stories from the Steeples
Stories from the Steeples was released in Ireland in December 2011 and then worldwide in January 2012.
It mainly featured contemporary songs by Irish songwriters, including three by Black’s son Danny O’Reilly. The album included two songs that were hit singles in Ireland for Black, Marguerite and the Gambler, and Walkin’ with my Love, a duet with Finbar Furey.
Black continues to record and tour.