Enchanting folksy Celtic Americana. A charming, esoteric puzzle.
In americana terms, Aoife O’Donovan is a big deal. A Grammy-winning big deal (as a third of ‘I’m With Her’, alongside Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz). So the bar is set high in anticipation of this, her third solo long-player. How does it perform?
It’s quiet. It’s reflective. It’s firmly rooted in an axis of folksy-Celtic-americana. And it’s undeniably very, very impressive. When a record is its ‘feel’, to be appreciated as a whole, it’s a difficult task to suggest one or more stand-out tracks (which this reviewer is often keen to find). Accordingly, former AUK ‘track of the day’ ‘Prodigal Daughter’ just about fits the bill. It’s less ethereal than many here; a greater impetus, a well-defined chorus, mandolin, and a handful of acoustic guitar tracks carry what is nonetheless a sad, sad lament.
O’Donovan’s voice blends echoes of Joni with her own soft Celtic, harmony-rich blend. ‘Lucky Star’ is notable for the dark, mean turns the melody and arrangement pursue. A heavy bass drum beats out a bleak rhythmic warning. Closer ‘Passengers’ ups the tempo and approaches a ‘poppy’ sound, or as close as O’Donovan gets to one. Touches of a Paul Simon-esque rhythm guitar drive the verses forward, with a softer focus chorus as an unusual counterpoint.
Any human with ears and a brain ought to be impressed by this collection of songs. Don’t expect to be rocked, or rolled; it’s not going to take you there. Instead, enjoy the places that ‘Age of Apathy’ takes you to instead.