Despite the title and the artistic design of the front cover is "Stories From The Steeples," Mary Black's first recording in six years, not a collection of hymns. The title refers rather to the studio in Dublin, where the LP was recorded. This new selection of twelve pieces is, in typical Black-shape, a flawless mix of traditional and contemporary-sounding material. The list of participating in these sessions musicians is very long, but constant here are the guitarist Bill Shanley, the keyboard and accordion player Pat Crowley, bassist Nick Scott and violinist Matt McGranahan. The first piece, "Marguerite And The Gambler" written by Ricky Lynch, was surely influenced by the spirit of Bob Dylan's "Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts" (even though Dylan's song was certainly influenced by outlaw tales from the American South, originally descended from ancient Celtic ballads - so please ask! ). It is based on a brilliant arrangement with the highlights piano, mandolin and McGranahans lone violin. Three Duets are strategically distributed on the plate. "Walking With My Love", a casual shuffler is, together with the State Finbar Furey man, an Irish music legend, sang, accompanying the song on the banjo. "Lighthouse Light" sounds as if it would have occurred in the Ireland of the 60s (which is to the tune maybe even true), but is actually written by the people living in Boston Irish songwriter Ry Cavanaugh, Black sings here with the incomparable Janis Ian. The real surprise however is the first single from the album, "Mountains To The Sea," written by Australians Shane Howard and Neil Murray. On the boundary line between contemporary Celtic folk and pop Black is accompanied by her compatriot, the standing at the top of the charts rock & roll singer Imelda May Each of the two women doing what she does best - not May not curbs to Black tries to rock the song. Their voices, phrasing and timbre perfectly complement and blend seamlessly in the chorus. Another highlight is Black's interpretation of Eric Bogles anti-war ballad "All The Fine Young Men." Three songs were written by Danny Reilly of the Coronas - in which it is Black's son. The best of the three - although neither of them is a dud - the barren, bare essentials reduced ballad "Faith In Fate". Black's other children, Roisín and Conor, contact Danny in his "The Night Is On Our Side". "Stories From The Steeples' is a welcome return of one of the best voices and original style representatives of contemporary folk music, and it is also an outstanding album in Blacks solo catalog.