Mary Coughlan
  • By Sue Bevan
  • |
  • 8th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

This is the best I’ve seen and heard of the great Irish jazz and blues singer. For sure that’s partly down to the tremendous outfit she’s with: other than his beautiful solo breaks, pianist and rising star on the Irish jazz scene Johnny Taylor doesn’t take his eyes off her for the entire set. Ireland-residing US bassist Dan Bodwell is sublime. They’re a dream team.

​This is the best I’ve seen and heard of the great Irish jazz and blues singer.

But it’s also about Coughlan seemingly so comfortable now in her own skin. Gone are the days when she, “was in rehab thirty-two times in three years.” God forbid she went the same tragic way as other great artists in her field. This woman is a poet. A poet with a sharp sardonic wit and a turn of phrase to catch you right off guard. And she’s brutally honest. Remarkably so. And remarkably talented. Coughlan took an interesting and exciting new direction with her most recent album, ‘The House of Ill Repute’. There’s more than a touch of Kurt Weill about it. But it’s her smoky blues and jazz numbers that do it best for the crowd. The woman next to me wipes away a tear through ‘You Can’t Make Me Love You’. The man from Finland says she was the first thing on his list when he flew in. Sounds like she always will be. You can feel the pulse of the audience through the heart-rending Doublecross. They breathe as one.

This was the ideal venue for her, too. The Spiegeltent’s rich burgundy velvet décor absorbs her soulful sounds. It holds her. As she sits out the instrumentals, her feet swing playfully childlike in their shiny little black patent numbers. Coughlan is at home here. “I love this tent,” she says. Now they’re off on tour together – a perfect marriage of styles.

In Cambridge, when I saw her last, some numbers felt a little rushed. None of that tonight. This was Mary Coughlan stroking every heartstring going. Give me this any day. Every day.

Reviews by Sue Bevan

Dixon Place

The Unwritten Law

The Jazz Bar

Remembering Chet

Just the Tonic at The Mash House

Have Fun

theSpace on North Bridge

Angel: Take This Body

Underbelly, Cowgate


Freestival St Mary's

Alasdair Lists Everything



The Blurb

‘Mother of five and grandmother of one, so far, she is an unlikely but transfixing performer, whether standing on one leg on a vertiginous high heel or kicking off her shoes to whisper, growl, or cry out loud’ (Financial Times). ‘Mary Coughlan is Ireland’s answer to Peggy Lee, though her husky gin-soaked voice has been compared to Billie Holiday. At times she sounds more like an incredibly relaxed KD Lang or Edith Piaf’ (Times). An Irish theatrical torch-blues legend. ‘Bitter, seductive, raunchy, contemptuous…’ (Mojo). ‘Tom Waits has met his Irish match’ **** (Guardian).