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.
I’ve been listening to this for a couple of weeks and think it’s great. By far her best solo album to date. This is no background music. Ignore everything else around you and listen. Passengers is a real ‘listen again’ track.
There’s a ‘deluxe’ version with a second disc of eight of the tracks performed as acoustic. Also wonderful.
Thanks for you comment Jeremy. Nice to know we at AUK are being read out there.
AUK will be posting our interview with Aoife in the next few weeks.