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 5 May 1956,Galway, Eire) 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, adapting 'Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do' to a tango, also included 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 the 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 arranged and produced by Visser, with solo saxophones, guitars, keyboards, tuba, real strings etc; including Cole Porter's 'Laziest Girl' (from 1927; sung by Marlene Dietrich in film Stage Fright '50), Billie Holiday's 'Good Morning Heartache' (the musicians play their chords backwards), Willard Robison'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 distributed 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.

Further albums have included Long Honeymoon '99 and Sings Billie Holiday 2000 on Evangeline; Red Blues on Cadiz/Pinnacle 2002; Live At The Basement 2003, The Best 2004, The Whole Affair--The Very Best Of 2012 and Scars On The Calendar on Hail Mary 2015; as well as The House of Ill Repute 2008 on Rubyworks.