Review of Aoife O’Donovan – “Fossils”
After a consistent 10-year career as frontwoman of the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still, on hiatus since 2011, and other projects such as the female acoustic Sometymes Why and collaborations with people the likes of Jim Lauderdale, Sara Watkins, Ollabelle, Sarah Jarosz and others, Aoife (pronounced eeh-fah) O’Donovan seems like she’s always had a calling for putting her talent on the front burner of a wider Americana style context.
After a long wait, the choice of Tucker Martine (Laura Veirs,My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Abigail Washburn) as producer for this full-lenght solo debut (she recorded a 7″ vinyl earlier in 2010) expresses a sharp intention to detach herself from her previous tenure , directing her virtuosity mostly toward a singer/songwriter and Indie scene than a traditional roots one.
If her aim was to mold a collection which encompasses a broad range of sensibilities including pop and country/rock more nuanced tracks, nonetheless the Boston native artist is determined to keep in the album framework a distinctively folk core. “Fossils” is impressively interpreted by Aoife’s ethereal voice and her capacity to move sometimes abruptly from a melancholy tone to a rough and somewhat stark one without losing the sensuality of the vocals, gives the listener the impression of having to do with a remarkable piece of work, sure making it one of the finest albums in the Americana landscape you can hear in this 2013.
The opening is left to her own “Lay My Burden Down” covered in 2011 Alison Krauss’ “Paper Airplane”: here it’s already present the departure from the more classic Alison version. An electric guitar along with the natural O’Donovan gentleness gives melodic vibes to “Red & White & Blue & Gold”. A country rock edge is brought in “Beekeeper”, where its pedal steel also characterizes “Fire Engine”, the more twang-soaked track of the disc, subtly permeated by a puff of Johnny Cash style also found in the fragmented rhythm and over-instrumented “I’m Alone”. The folk rock “Thursday Child” underscores the artist versatility and how defltly she modulates the pace and extension of her voice. The same pop accents and an easier listening also in the horns of “Pearls” , the tune that takes to the last part of “Fossils” where the album leaves a clear mark. Melting violins and fiddle arrangements in “Glowing Heart” stand out creating a shivering atmosphere. Oh Mama”, an engaging and emotional ballad with a soulful chorus closes the whole album.
A definitively valuable work, a must buy, from an artist which inventiveness, grace and authenticity bode very well for her future career and that, given this excellent first outcome, Americana fans certainly hope to run into her again.