Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

COUGHLAN, Mary

(b Galway, Eire '56) Singer. Grew up in Galway; was the first nude model in Limerick, the first female street sweeper in Ealing (London); went back home, got married, had three kids, sang in the bathtub. European guitarist and songwriter Eric Visser talked her into singing in pubs; they entered a talent contest, lost to a girl who sang 'Silver Threads And Golden Needles'. They made an album with Visser producing; adapted 'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do' to a tango, also incl. sexy 'Seduced' and 'Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long', 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues', 'Country Fair Dance' etc; record companies laughed until Tired And Emotional '86 was issued on tiny Mystery label: her strong alto has a breathy edge like the sound of Ben Webster's tenor; the album's personal mixture of folk clarity and jazz influence with accordions and synths became the best- selling record by an Irish artist for years and was picked up by WEA, who delayed Under The Influence '87 because the first one kept selling. The second album was slicker, beautifully arr./prod. by Visser, with solo saxophones, guitars, keyboards, tuba, real strings etc; incl. Cole Porter's 'Laziest Girl' ('27; sung by Marlene Dietrich in film Stage Fright '50), Billie Holiday's 'Good Morning Heartache' (the musicians play their chords backwards), Willard Robinson's 'Don't Smoke In Bed' (hit for Peggy Lee '48), others co-written by Visser etc and not a dud in the lot. Further albums were Uncertain Pleasures '90 and Sentimental Killer '92 on East--West dist. by WEA; Love For Sale '93 on Fiend and Love Me Or Leave Me '94 on WEA. Live In Galway '96, studio album After The Fall '97 on Big Cat were up to standard; an unashamed and brilliant interpreter of other people's songs, she makes pop music sound like bubblegum.