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Mary Coughlan THE WHOLE AFFAIR: THE VERY BEST OF MARY COUGHLAN Hail Mary Records/ Proper Music CACD3001 HHHH Celebrating 25 years of a jazz and blues great What more is there to say about Mary

Coughlan’s tumultuous life and times that hasn’t already been written (or said) a thousand times before, not least by the lady herself in the plain spoken and frightening biography Bloody Mary (Hachette Books)? So let’s just concentrate on the great music Mary has laid down over the years. There is so much here, the best extracted

from all her albums and it is exceptional to be able to do that in the music business over such a long period. There is usually an ex-manger or label somewhere that plays the awkward squad and blocks their material. Mary herself can take great credit for that, wresting back control over all her early music after a particularly unsavoury management bust up. Also, this double album is thoughtfully arranged with the best of the studio albums on Disc One and the live albums on Disc Two, with the only overlap being Mary’s long time poster song, Jimmy McCarthy’s Ancient Rain. The memorable stage performance of that is from the 1995 renaissance Live in Galway when Mary was coming back from yet another very difficult time. At her lowest ebb, rumour has it that she begged John Mannion—proprietor of the Roisin Dubh in her hometown—for a gig and he replied: ‘you must be… joking you nearly fell off the stage the last time!’ Thankfully John relented and Mary then proceeded to sell out eight successive nights—and Galway is not that big a place! The breakthrough album was back in

1985, TIRED AND EMOTIONAL, which could be viewed as a risky title given the generally accepted condition that is a euphemism for. She typically cared not a jot, for the follow up album was titled UNDER THE INFLUENCE. The standout from this period has to be the tale of a terrifying heroin addiction amongst the Dublin housing estates, Johnny Mulhern’s The Ice Cream Man with the immortal line: ‘…tower block hot as hell; corporation chemicals can’t hide

the smell.’ This brilliant collection really does

cover all of the ground right up to Mary’s 2008 landmark release, HOUSE OF ILL REPUTE, with its songs about abuse, dysfunction, pornography, prostitution, death and murder well represented with four songs, including the achingly sad autobiographical Mary, Mary. The division between studio and live recordings gets blurred a little with the extracts from MARY COUGHLAN SINGS BILLIE HOLIDAY, with just the memorable You’ll Be There on Disc One and two more, You’ve Changed and Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal’s beautiful I’ll Be Seeing You, which were live recordings, appearing on Disc Two. In addition to being from the same genre and the superb singing, there are so many other personal parallels that Mary is of course seen as a latter day Billie Holiday. Mary’s fans will already have most if not all of this music but together with excellent liner notes written mostly by Mary herself, you really cannot get too much of a good thing. Paul Collins

Red Simpson HELLO, I’M RED SIMPSON Bear Family BCD 16944 EK HHHH Complete recordings from cult truck-drivin’ vocal stylist over lavish 5-CD set Red Simpson was at the forefront of

both the truck driving craze of the 1960s and the Bakersfield Sound. Though born in Arizona, young Joe’ Red’ Simpson and his family moved to California in 1937 when the youngster was just three years old. Inspired by his older brother, ‘Buster’ and local country band leader Bill Woods, young Red pursued a career in music after discharge from the Navy in the early 1950s. He often hung around the Capitol Recording studios and fellow West Coast singers and musicians like Buck Owens, Tommy Collins and was soon playing in local bands and writing songs. He made his recording debut in 1957 for the Bakersfield- based Tally Records, but it was joining Capitol Records some eight years later that saw him become a star with his distinctive truck driving songs. This five-CD set contains all of his

recordings from the late 1950s debut through to the early 1980s. I can recall

buying his late 1960s albums with such great tracks as Nitro Express, Highway Man, Roll Truck Roll, The Highway Patrol, Truck Drivin’ Fool and his 1972 comeback hit, I’m A Truck. Red Simpson’s records didn’t sound like anyone else’s at the time. His deep, rich voice was full of authority … it was the voice of a working man and perfectly suited the truckin’ songs that he specialised in. Simpson was also a talented songwriter, possibly his biggest writing success came with Close All The Honky Tonks, a top 20 hit for Charlie Walker in 1965 which has been covered by many other acts including the Flying Burrito Brothers and Dwight Yoakam. He also had many other songs recorded by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, etc. Though he didn’t enjoy a whole lot of

hits himself, Red Simpson did release a series of great albums and is held in high esteem by many veteran country music lovers and by fellow artists, both past and more recent. This box set comes with a large 108pp book with rare photos, all that you need to know about Red Simpson’s life and his music career, alongside session details for all of the recordings. Alan Cackett

Ricky Van Shelton RVSIII/ BACKROADS T-Bird Americana TBIRDAM 039 HHHI More fine reissues from the almost forgotten Shelton man From 1987 to 1992, Ricky had one of

the heaviest tour schedules in country music. He also had 10 number one hits, including I’ll Leave This World Loving You, Keep It Between The Lines, the Dolly Parton duet Rockin’ Years and the self-defining I Am A Simple Man. But his success came with a price. He lapsed into a drinking problem, cheated on wife Bettye and even considered suicide. Ricky cleaned up his act in the early 1990s through his faith in God, and even gave his blessing when Bettye wrote a tell-all book, She Stays, about their difficulties in holding their long-lasting relationship together. This 2on1 reissue features his third and

fourth albums for Columbia Records which were originally released in 1990 and 1991 respectively. Both had a retro feel due in part to his revivals of then golden oldies

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