These songs will be filed under Aoife O’Donovan’s name, but it’s the artistic alloy that comprises the EP Bull Frogs Croon (and Other Songs) that makes it such a captivating song cycle. That’s not to say O’Donovan doesn’t deserve the credit coming to her; rather, it’s a testament to her musical sensibilities that she brought together such an amalgam in the first place.
Bull Frogs Croon’s origins lie in a commissioned piece by O’Donovan that introduced her to the poetry of Peter Sears, the poet laureate of Oregon from 2014 to 2016. Of Bull Frogs Croon’s five tracks, the first three are Sears poems set to a striking (and shadowy) string quartet arrangement. The marriage of O’Donovan and company’s work and Sears poetry rewards listeners with layers of beauty. As for the final two tracks, those familiar with O’Donovan’s live shows will recognize her takes on affecting “Pretty Bird” (Hazel Dickens) and “Lakes of Pontchartrain.”
O’Donovan, it should be noted, is only one musical star shining bright here. Composer Jeremy Kittel played a major role here, and the presence of acclaimed instrumentalists like violinist Brittany Haas (Hawktail), bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), and violist Mario Gotoh (Hamilton) round out the aforementioned ensemble.
Given her presence in I’m With Her, Crooked Still, Sometymes Why, and other side projects or appearances, O’Donovan is no stranger to such beautiful musical pairings. For her latest EP, the 37-year-old artist has done it again, a truly poetic set of songs that linger with the listener long after O’Donovan has the final word.