Her first audience — perhaps her most important — was her mother and father. Rita MacNeil was shy, but she would still, with some coaxing, oblige.

“They were wonderful, they knew I loved to sing, and they were always trying to get me to get out of my shell,” said the singer from Big Pond. “I certainly enjoyed singing to them, they were a small audience but appreciative.”

Those songs, her mom and dads favourites, included From A Jack To A King, It’s Almost Tomorrow, North To Alaska, and You’ll Never Walk Alone.

MacNeil has included those tones, along with nine others, on a CD called Songs My Mother Loved. It’s a collection she will be singing for Nova Scotia audiences as she goes on a Mother’s Day tour of the province over the next five days.

“I had the chance to finally put them out on CD, and it is great to see the reactions, because the songs bring back a lot of memories for other folks as well — and a lot of memories for me,” said MacNeil.

Those memories include singing Green Green Grass Of Home to her mother in 1972. At the time, her mother was ill in the hospital with cancer. It was images of that day that came back to MacNeil when she was in the studio recording the song.

“Cancer eventually took her life,” said the Juno winner. “She dearly loved that song, so it was a song on the top of my list to put on the CD.”