Mary Coughlan: House of Ill Repute (Shock)

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Mary Coughlan: Love is Extra
Mary Coughlan: House of Ill Repute (Shock)

This remarkable Irish singer who soaked her life and songs in whisky at the start of her career slipped from sight for a number of years but here returns with an album that should be counted among her best.

In 2004 at the end of a 13-year relationship she ended up in New Zealand (according to the liner notes) where she felt quite at home and so later returned with Erik Visser who had helped helm her career -- especially when it was almost rudderless -- and started considering recording the material on this earthy album.

Coughlan is a fearless singer, and many of the songs here are delivered with such raunchy committment you'd be forgiven for thinking they are autobiographical. Yet she only wrote one song here, but when she gets under the gypsy-jazz style of the title track, the raw emotions of Kirsty MacColl's Bad ("I've been an awful woman all my life, a dreadful daughter and a hopeless wife . . .") or the cabaret raunchiness of Love is Extra or Tootsies ("mother's pregnant in some clinic, brother Ernie is a spliff . . .") you realise you are in the presence of a rare singer -- and those comparison with Billie Holiday aren't fatuous.

Especially when she can also sing something as moving as In Your Darkened Room and its deep sense of someone who has lost themselves along the way and can't understand quite how or when.

Coughlan is a rare one. 


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Angela - Dec 1, 2008

Sounds like a raunchy woman cabaret artist I heard once in a Spiegeltent and wish I'd remembered her name.

Thorny - Dec 20, 2008

I really liked this braver sound from her. She has a truly amazing voice and when matched with good lyrics it is magic. I can't help but think much of her work is autobiographical. Good sound and back to basic arranging.

Jamie - Dec 21, 2008

"Tired & Emotional", Mary's 1985 album, has long been one of my favourite albums. I've bought every one since, too, and felt a quiet dissatisfaction, none had quite the rollicking, barroom appeal of my first encounter with her...until now. The opening bars of The House of Ill repute set a tone that this new album holds up for it's entire length. "Bad" is all that I want from Mary, my stand out track, but she has written 13 songs that all manage to engage me, entertain me, and, most importantly, let me inside her world for close to an hour.

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