The Holland Handkerchief
 
Photo Gallery - click thumbnail for larger image    
Petticoat Loose CD cover

back to top


Fullbright press release 2012 (word doc)

Summer tour 2011 press release (word doc)  
Petticoat Loose press release (word doc)  
Press Kit in downloadable pdf format
Get Adobe reader

back to top




Album Reviews

Joe Giltrap The Irish Post
May 13, 2010
Mary McPartlan
Petticoat Loose

Petticoat Loose Album can only enhance Mary's growing reputation THIS is the second album from Galway-based songstress Mary McPartlan and it has the same delightful eclectic feel to it as her previous album The Holland Handkerchief. When you hear the lovely jaunty traditional Sios Faoi Braoch Loch Aileannsit alongside the original Kiss The Moon and find nothing strange about Leonard Cohen's Sisters Of Mercy preceding a traditional Romanian song with the help of a Romanian string quartet, then you know you have something special. It is the result of a two-year project with her friend the poet and playwright Vincent Woods and it might be fair to say it probably would not have happened without the support of the Arts Council Deis award. The album contains six new pieces of music, three of which were written by Vincent Woods and set to music by the superb Mairtin O'Connor. Two old Irish pieces, that have their origins in her native Drumkerrin, Co. Leitrim, were set to music by Brendan O'Regan and a new song in Irish from Connemara with music and lyrics by Padraigh O'hAolain was translated by the great Kerry singer/songwriter Tim Dennehy. Mary has yet again gathered a wonderfully talented bunch of musicians to grace this album and complement her voice perfectly. By engaging the services and commitment of multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Seamie O'Dowd, the man who produced and contributed so much to The Holland Handkerchief, Mary has ensured a certain continuity of sound and feel which may or may not have been planned but nevertheless works excellently. When you add in the talents of Frankie Gavin, Cathal Hayden, Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh, Gary O'Briain, Rick Epping and Eddie Lynch it is hardly a surprise that this album is so good. But all the instrumentation in the world cannot compensate for a lack of quality vocals and Mary McPartlan is blessed with a lovely distinctive and expressive voice full of sincerity and feeling. On tracks where backing vocals come into play she is joined at various times by Ruth Dillon, Bernie O'Mahony, Mart Staunton, Gemma and Laura McPartlan and her daughters Mairead and Meabh Noonan. Track five -Barbara Allen - demonstrates this wonderfully. This album can only enhance Mary McPartlan's growing reputation and I am sure she will be performing tracks from it when she appears in concert at Hammersmith Cultural Centre on Saturday, May 15.

www.netrhythms.com
David Kidman
April 2008
Mary McPartlan Petticoat Loose


MARY'S abnormally fine CD The Holland Handkerchief was a highlight of my listening year back in 2004, so it was in a heightened state of both eagerness and trepidation that I approached her latest offering. I needn't have worried in the slightest, for Petticoat Loose is another exceptional release. Two years in the making, its essence is represented by, and crystallised in, the four principal strands of Mary's artistic endeavours: her close associations with luminaries of the traditional music world, her work at the National University Of Ireland, Galway, her ongoing musical collaboration with former Dervish multi-instrumentalist Seamie O'Dowd and her lifelong friendship with poet, playwright and broadcaster Vincent Woods. These strands, though on the surface quite diverse, are well unified here by Mary's marvellous singing voice: supremely strong, full of spirit and passion and an intense love of the songs she sings, whatever their provenance. Having said that, Mary benefits much from the inventive nature of the settings given to the songs, which range from the epic layerings of Cúmha (Parting Sorrow) and Caoine Sheáin Mhic Searraigh to the altogether simpler, ungainly rusticity of the Romanian drinking song Lumé, Lumé (accompanied by the galumphing strings of the quartet ConTempo). Highlights are provided by the pair of songs collected by Stiofán O'Cheilleachair from the area of Drumkeerin where Mary grew up, which are both blessed with imaginative arrangements by Brendan O'Regan, while two further songs have an intriguing choral setting: a beautiful, small-scale-harmonised rendition of Barbara Allen contrasting with an ambitious treatment of Lowlands Away on which Mary's voice is surrounded by the surging waves of sound produced by NUIG's Orbsen Choir. A further standout track is Mary's solo unaccompanied rendition of the traditional narrative My Generous Lover, while another unexpected success is Mary's "strangely comforting" cover of Leonard Cohen's Sisters Of Mercy. The three Vincent Woods songs couldn't be more contrasted too: Sanctuary is a poignant childhood reminiscence, while Kiss The Moon's light-country-bluegrassy setting belies the personal and moving nature of its story and the album's title track playfully makes use of a bluesy kind of jig form to convey both the carefree abandon and the ominous intoxicating allure of the strayed woman of folklore. If I must be picky, the album's two least successful tracks for me are Wild Mountain Side, where Mary's very strength of vocal timbre appears to hector the listener a touch, and Victor Jara, whose almost jaunty accompaniment works against the emotive power of Mary's voice. But these criticisms are very much comparative, as the album works so well as a whole and the rest of it is so fine. No lover of good singing can be disappointed with Mary's performance here, while another definite selling-point must be her excellent and illustrious support crew, which includes Mairtín O'Connor, Cathal Hayden and the aforementioned Mr. O'Dowd (all of whom appeared on The Holland Handkerchief), with this time additionally (amongst others) Frankie Gavin, Gerry (Banjo) O'Connor, Garry O'Briain and Johnny Ringo McDonagh.

back to top

Morning Star
Continuing the folk tradition
David Granville

March 2008
MARY McPARTLAND - Petticoat Loose

A LONG-RESPECTED figure on the Irish folk scene, it's hard to believe that Petticoat Loose is only Mary McPartland's second album. The release of her first album in 2004, the award-winning The Holland Handkerchief, brought her talents to a wider audience. This excellent follow-up should attract even more admirers and accolades. Launched recently at the SIPTU Liberty Hall Theatre in Dublin, Petticoat Loose is both a musical triumph and a personal testament to the singer's experiences and passions. Assisted by producer and multi-instrumentalist Seamie O'Dowd and a host of other notable musicians, McPartland's voice is clear, strong and passionate throughout. Although unquestionably rooted in the traditional, this album includes a wide variety of styles and material, ranging from traditional to new and original works. The album also includes material from different folk traditions, such as Leonard Cohen's Sisters of Mercy, Adrian Mitchell's Victor Jara and the Romanian drinking song Lume Lume. Opening track Sanctuary is one of the three masterful collaborations between McPart-lan, poet and playwright Vincent Woods and composer Mairtin O'Connor. A mining song, Woods's lyrics set County Leitrim's "coal pits of misery" against the sanctuary of home among the fields and "blue green mountains" of the singer's childhood and youth. McPartland's two younger brothers both experienced the hazardous, backbreaking toil of the Arigna mines before emigrating. The title song is another Woods/O'Connor composition. Based on a wild and dangerous - to men - female character from the folklore of Tipperary and Kilkenny, it offers a lyrically dark angle on the war of the sexes. A champion of Irish language and culture, it's not surprising to find two beautiful old songs from McPartlan's native Drumkeerin, while Cumha (A Parting Sorrow), a contemporary song written and composed by Padraig O hAolain, mourns the changes to Irish rural life and values wrought by the spread of industrialisation and the wage economy. The inclusion of Victor Jara is a powerful nod towards the singer's past involvement with the Chile Committee for Human Rights. Mitchell's song, set to music by Arlo Guthrie, has been previously recorded by, among others, Christy Moore and Dick Gaughan. McPartland's version stands beside these as their equal. With originality and quality in abundance, Petticioat Loose must surely enhance McPartland's reputation as one of Ireland's finest female vocal talents.
back to top

Irish Democrat
David Granville
April 2008

"With originality and quality in abundance, Petticioat Loose looks set to ensure that McPartlan's reputation as one of Ireland's finest female vocal talents is spread even further afield." David Granville

WITH SEVERAL decades of performing under her belt and an artistic career taking in theatre, television and a host of other cultural activities and initiatives, it's hard to believe that Petticoat Loose is only Mary McPartland's second album. Born and raised near Drumkeeran in Co. Leitrim, she began performing as far back as the 1970s. Since the mid-1980s, she has lived in Galway, building a solid reputation on the Irish folk scene while demonstrating her many talents as a singer, producer, director and organiser. The release of her first album in 2004, the award-winning The Holland Handkerchief (MCPCD001), brought her talents to a wider audience. This excellent follow up should attract even more admirers and accolades. Officially launched in February at SIPTU's Liberty Hall Theatre in Dublin - an event which McPartlan herself described as a mix of song, music, politics and human rights - the album is a personal testament to the experiences and passions of the singer's life. Assisted by producer and multi-instrumentalist Seamie O Dowd and a host of other notable musicians, McPartlan's voice is clear, strong and passionate throughout. Although unquestionably rooted in the traditional, the album includes a wide variety of styles and material. These range from traditional and contemporary Irish-language songs to six new and original works. The album also includes material from different folk traditions, such as Leonard Cohen's Sisters of Mercy, Adrian Mitchell's song about the murdered Chilean poet and songwriter Victor Jara, and the Romanian drinking song Lumè Lumè - the latter track featuring the Romanian string quartet ConTempo. The opening track, Sanctuary, is one of the three excellent collaborations between McPartlan and life-long friend, poet and playwright Vincent Woods and composer Mairtín O'Connor. A mining song, Woods' lyrics set Co. Leitrim's "coal pits of misery" against the sanctuary of home amongst the fields and "blue green mountains" of the singer's childhood and youth. From the 15th-century onwards, Arigna in Co. Roscommon and the nearby Co. Leitrim mountains were famous for iron and, later, coal, mining. Although the last pits closed in 1990, McPartlan's two younger brothers both experienced the hazardous, backbreaking toil of the mines before emigrating. The song from which the album tales its title is another Woods/O'Connor composition. Based on a wild and dangerous - to men - female character from the folklore of Tipperary and Kilkenny, it offers a beautifully sung, but lyrically dark angle on the war of the sexes. There's no doubt in this song as who gets the upper hand. A champion of Irish culture and language, the inclusion of two beautiful old songs (Caoine Sheain Mhic Searraigh/Síos Faoi Braoch Loch Aileann) comes as no surprise. Set to music by Brendan O'Regan, both originate from McPartlan's native Drumkeerin. Cúmha (A Parting Sorrow), written and composed by Padraig Ó hAoláin and translated by Tim Dennehy, is a new song from Connemara lamenting the changes to Irish rural life and values wrought by the spread of industrialisation and wage economy. A powerful song in it's own right, McPartlan's inclusion of Mitchell's poem Victor Jara is a clear nod towards the singer's past involvement with the Chilean exile community in Ireland and the Chile Committee for Human Rights. Set to music by Arlo Guthrie, Michell's poem has been previously recorded by a host of notable artists, most memorably perhaps being Christy Moore and Dick Gaughan. By any standards, McPartlan's version stands beside these as their equal. With originality and quality in abundance, Petticioat Loose looks set to ensure that McPartlan's reputation as one of Ireland's finest female vocal talents is spread even further afield. David Granville

back to top

The Irish Times
Siobhán Long - Highs and Lows of 2005
16th December 2005
Meanwhile Mary McPartlan, the Bessie Smith of traditional music, stilled audiences with her eclectic repertoire and showed the wisdom of planting one foot in the present while the other treads adventurously into the past.

Photo of Mary which appeared in The Irish Times of December 16 2005 as part of Siobhán Long's article on the musical highs and lows of 2005.

 


The Irish Times - The Ticket
Siobhán Long
5th February 2004
MARY McPARTLAN The Holland Handkerchief RMG ****

The sleeve notes hint at a meitheal coming together for the making of this heart-stopping CD from music producer – and now, finally, recording artist– Mary McPartlan. And it’s a heavy meitheal band with a difference: shot through with enough vim, vigour and unfettered passion to fuel those lethal marathon singing sessions that lop years off your life while adding wings to the spirit. McPartlan’s voice is gloriously earthy, as she breaks in her material for all their life-giving powers. Shamie O’Dowd’s multi-instrumental contributions are a revelation of style and panache, his and McPartlan’s vocal harmonies gelling fearlessly. Mairtín O’Connor, Paddy Keenan and James Blennerhasset cosset and challenge with grinning ease. But the songs rule: The Tide Full is in perfect snap-shot of voice, geography and history in faultless synchrony.

back to top

BBC Music Online (www.bbc.co.uk)
Jon Lusk

29th Sep 2004
Mary McPartlan The Holland Handkerchief, (Mac P Productions)

With this debut album arriving in her 50th year, you could say Mary McPartlan has been a little backward in coming forward as a singer. A busy career in theatre and TV production is one of the reasons that her remarkable lived-in voice has so far only been heard in a few back-street clubs of Galway and the surrounding area, but The Holland Handkerchief is likely to change that. Her tendency to bend notes betrays a fondness for both the blues and sean-nós. An obvious highlight is the charged, spooky title track which kicks off the disc, establishing her as a compelling story teller. The version of Shane McGowan's wonderful "Rainy Night In Soho" is effectively understated, and it's interesting to compare her take on "Aura Lee" - full of sentiment, though never sentimental - with that of fellow Galway singer Sean Keane. On the more upbeat side, "As I Roved Out/Joe ODowd's Barndance" strays into the kind of territory frequented by The Dubliners, and "Saw You Running" could almost be Kirsty MacColl. "Slieve Gallion Braes" is the oldest song in her repertoire; performed with just two backing singers, it harks back to her early days in the mid 70's, when she was part of a duo called Calypso. The other arrangements include everything from the stark unaccompanied take on "Lord Gregory" to the driving electric folk rock of "The Holland Handkerchief", and come courtesy of Dervish's excellent fiddler/guitarist Shamie ODowd. Having initiated Ireland's TG4 National Music Awards in the mid 1990's, Mary had the luxury of being able to call on a who's who of Ireland's traditional music scene to play for her. So the starry cast of session musicians includes the likes of Uilleann piper Paddy Keenan and accordionist Mairtín OConnor, who help to make this one of the year's finest traditional albums.
back to top

Songlines
Geoff Wallis

Sept - Oct 2004
MaryMcPartlan The Holland Handkerchief ***** (5*)

Incredible debut, and a potential Irish album of the year Rarely can there have been a debut album as compelling as The Holland Handkerchief, released by the Leitrim-born, Galway-based singer, Mary McPartlan. Blessed with a distinctively evocative and welcoming voice and a strong sense of her own musical personality, Mary and her close collaborator, the stunningly talented multi-instrumentalist Shamie O’Dowd of Dervish, have conspired to produce a gem of a recording, thoroughly reinforced by the redoubtable production skills of PJ Curtis. Add to this instrumentalists of the calibre of accordionist Máirtín O’Connor, uilleann piper Paddy Keenan and fiddler Cathal Hayden and success is utterly guaranteed. Apart from that voice, the power of The Holland Handkerchief lies in Mary’s choice of material and the quality of Shamie’s arrangements. As well as the remarkably vibrant opening title track, there are many other places on the album where everything just simply falls into place. One is Tim Edwards’ ‘Ladybird’, in which the sheer expressive resonance of Mary’s voice is highlighted by the eloquence of Eddie Lynch’s piano accompaniment. Another is Mary’s version of the Tim O’Brien/Guy Clarke collaboration, ‘John Riley’, where Shamie proves he might have an alternative career as a blues harmonica player and then demonstrates he could sub as a slide guitar player too on an atmospheric rendition of ‘Aura Lee’. Then there’s a dazzling largely unaccompanied vocal performance of ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’ to close an equally alluring album and one that should already be considered as Irish album of the year!

back to top

fRoots
Colin Irwin
June 2004

MaryMcPartlan The Holland Handkerchief, MCPRCD001
She's long worked behind the scenes in Ireland as a music producer for theatre and television... and you instantly wonder what the hell she's been doing producing other people when she can sing like this. Earthy, with a real sense of the soul of traditional song, I'd even go as far as saying she's the best Irish singer I've heard since Dolores Keane (though a voice in my head is yelling "Niamh Parsons" even as I type). That McPartlan also has some of the cream of Irish musicians grouped around her - including Paddy Keenan, Mairtin O'Connor, Liam Kelly, Tom Morrow and Cathal Hayden - in addition to Dervish's excellent Shamie O'Dowd as musical arranger and P.J.Curtis as producer-ensure this will surely wind up as one of the very best albums of the year. Her other forte seems to be resurrecting and rejuvenating old material, most disarmingly, one of Shane MacGowan's very finest sentimental songs, Rainy Night In Soho', though lively arrangements of The Holland Handkerchief, Johnny Lovely Johnny, and As I Roved Out (a complete with show stopping contribution from Cathal Hayden's banjo) aren't far behind. It's a shrewd, neatly balanced repertoire and in some ways surprising repertoire... an eerie Peat Bog Soldiers; a pounding version of John Riley, the Tim O'Brien/Guy dark song about the San Patricios Irish brigade who swapped sides to fight for the Mexicans against the Yankees; a welcome reminder of the old Midnight Well song Saw You Running; and a gently jazzy Aura Lee over a tune later purloined by Elvis for Love Me Tender. And she proves her credentials as an unaccompanied singer with stunning versions of Lord Gregory and Slieve Gallion Braes, the latter helped along by some spine-tingling Mary Staunton and Martina Goggin harmonies. Few are the albums that can satisfy the hardcore folk element while achieving clear mainstream appeal - and the likes of Dolores Keane and Mary Black have faltered. I do believe Mary McPartlan has succeeded.

back to top


Mojo
Colin Irwin

June 04
MARY McPARTLAN ***** The Holland Handkerchief
MCP1 Essential Folk Album of the Month

An extraordinarily mature and moving debut album from an Irish mother of four SHE'S GOT a brilliant supporting cast of musicians-ex-Bothy Band piper Paddy Keenan and master box player Mairtin O’Connor among them -- but ultimately it’s the voice that pins you against the wall. Whether she’s delivering the heart-tugging unaccompanied ballads, Lord Gregory and Slieve Gallion Braes, the sinister Peatbog Soldiers, Tim 0'Brien’s alt country stomper John Riley or the jazz-infused Aura Lee to a tune more often applied to Love Me Tender, McPartlan’s singing has the depth, surety and instinctive emotion you only tend to hear from generations of traditional singers. I’ll go further and say I’ve not heard an Irish singer with as much natural soul since the young Delores Keane, and her transformation of Shane McGowan’s, Rainy Night in Soho. This is a sentimental Irish album in the good old way.

back to top

© Mary Mc Partlan 2008