With a career spanning three decades, Irish artist Mary Coughlan has certainly experienced and accomplished a lot. However, as her latest album illustrates, she still has plenty to offer the world in terms of talent and tunes. Following on from 2008’s The House of Ill Repute, her recently released record, Scars on the Calendar is an engaging mixture of folk and blues that’s endowed with a very earnest essence.
It begins with the cool and crisp riff of “Blood” before soft and solemn vocals join in. This simple and stripped down ballad serves as a stirring opening number. The air seems to shift in a more optimistic direction for “Chance Encounter” at first, but this is quickly offset by some lamenting lyrics. The result is a clear and concise composition that’s given life by vivid vocals and affecting acoustic guitars.
“This Is Not a Song” fades quietly into a reflective melody which carries a lot of spirit and expression as it unfolds. It’s a touching piece that tells an admirably honest story. “Just in Time” is another introspective monologue afterwards, featuring vibrant vocal work. The rousing tune of “Too Soon” takes over next, forging a characterful and quirky entry whose intimate subject matter is relayed in such a way that it seems simultaneously unapologetic and regretful.
The warm riff of “Eoghanin” saunters slowly forward through a gentle harmony that’s mournful and moving. This is ahead of the playful bass line that leads “In Another World” towards a feisty melody. It maintains a riveting rhythm that gives the whole thing a rather cheeky sound, despite its contemplative nature.
“What Can We Do?” features instrumentation that develops very gradually alongside a passionate refrain before building to a cutting climax. In its wake, the resonant vocals of “A Girl’s Got to Eat” wash over placid but purposeful guitars. This paves the way to the intriguing blend of folk and country which is prevalent during “I Miss You”.
The ominous introduction of “Good to Go” grabs the spotlight from here and sets an unsettling ambience that’s further emphasized by foreboding vocals. The instrumentation grows to frantic levels as it progresses, keeping a sinister atmosphere alive all the way through. This is soon superseded by “Would I Do It All Again?”, which is much more upbeat while still staying in line with the thoughtful tone of its predecessors. It manages to bring the compilation to a biting conclusion.
This latest endeavour by Mary Coughlan bears a back to basics sound which works well in conjunction with its candid content. The subtle guitar work and heartfelt harmonies make for an undertaking that’s as pleasant as it is powerful. Scars on the Calendar can be found on iTunes now.