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Posted Friday, February 13, 2015
Aoife O”Donovan, previously from Crooked Still, a young alternative bluegrass band from Massachusetts that formed in 2001, has made a solo album with a fine collection of country rock songs and ballads. She is making a big name for herself in the States, appearing on A Prairie Home Companion and touring with Noam Pikelny, and this album will certainly bolster her status as an Americana star.
She explores similar territory to Crooked Still but with a production that’s slicker, more layered and less traditional sounding. Sometimes it is reminiscent of Edie Brickell or Joni Mitchell.
Produced by Tucker Martine, the album opens with her own Lay My Burden Down (which Alison Krauss also recorded), imbued with plenty of smooth guitar and pedal steel. The mournful Red & White & Blue & Gold is beautifully poignant as is the haunting Briar Rose, which is based on an Anne Sexton poem in which Sleeping Beauty is depicted as the victim of sexual abuse by her father. O’Donovan adapts the original fairytale to chilling effect. Glowing Heart and Oh Mama create more aching melancholy but the action revs up with Beekeeper, Thursday’s Child and I’m Alone.
All in all there are elements of folk, jazz, rockabilly and gospel, performed in a smoothly polished style, with some nice guitar touches. Some might wish for a little more edgy rawness to proceedings for more impact. As it is the music washes over you in a user-friendly way, tender and emotional with a little swing, but keeping a pretty straight course.
CDYEP2321 (thru Planet Co.)