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Pop - Released November 1, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released June 11, 2013 | Yep Roc Records

While attending the New England Conservatory of Music, and before she founded the genre-blurring string band Crooked Still, singer and songwriter Aiofe O'Donovan set her sights upon making a record -- she even had a short list of producers picked out. Over a decade later, with Crooked Still on hiatus, O'Donovan's perseverance results in Fossils, her solo debut. Her patience was further rewarded by snagging Tucker Martine as producer -- the first name on that list. O'Donovan's brand of folk music comes out of tradition but refuses to be pinned down by it. Backed by a stellar band that includes guitarist Ryan Scott, bassist Jacob Silver, drummer Robin MacMillan, pedal steel guitarist Charlie Rose, and Rob Burger on various keyboards and accordion, O'Donovan offers ten originals that are a varied and lovely lot. The opener is her own version of "Lay My Burden Down," a track cut by Alison Krauss on 2011's Paper Airplane. The songwriter's take is more ethereal, her vocal less earthbound. It doesn't come from the land so much as hover above it. Rose's shimmering steel, Burger's Mellotron, soft, shuffling double-time drums, and an electric guitar solo create the sense of travel: being between the terrain exited and the territory that awaits. "Red & White & Blue & Gold" may be the set's strongest cut. Opening as a lazy, limpid, whispering country song, O'Donovan's soulful, slightly smoky alto is doubled by her sister Fionnuala's as it opens into a glorious love song with Rose's steel unstitching the emotion as Burger's Wurlitzer drifts right into them both. "Fire Engine" is an uptempo rocking bluegrass tune that feels a little like Emmylou Harris & the Hot Band. The slow, minor-key country-rock of "Beekeeper," with Jeremy Kittel adding his fiddle (he also appears on "Glowing Heart" later on), works itself up into a taut, smoldering, deeply sensual rocker. Sam Amidon lends his understated harmony vocal to the sparsely arranged love song "Briar Rose," and the trumpet of Dave Douglas (returning a favor: O'Donovan appeared on his Be Still in 2012) accents the Richard & Linda Thompson-flavored Anglo folk-rock of "Thursday's Child." Throughout, her songs are strong, clever, honest, and provocative. Martine's production is experimental yet unintrusive; he focuses all the sounds, textures, and instruments on the contrasts in O'Donovan's voice, understanding that at its heart lies a contrast of wispy earthiness and otherworldly ethereality. His touches adorn; they don't cover or drape. Fossils is not only an auspicious debut, but one that lives up to, and at times even exceeds, the promise of its potential. ~ Thom Jurek
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Folk/Americana - Released January 22, 2016 | Yep Roc Records

The twin powers of the road and memory are powerful, beguiling forces for singer/songwriters. Aoife O'Donovan is no exception. In the Magic Hour is her sophomore album. Written mostly during a solitary respite from traveling, its intimate songs are haunted by the emotional resonance of memory. The life and passage of her 93-year-old grandfather and her childhood visits to his Clonakilty seaside village in Ireland loom large over these recordings. Re-teaming with producer Tucker Martine, the pair built these tunes from the barest of essentials -- usually just her voice and a guitar -- before a studio band and carefully woven contributions of collaborators (including Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Chris Thile, Brooklyn Rider, Rob Burger, Eyvind Kang, and Tony Furtado) were added. Employing standard folk-rock instrumentation, the words in "Stanley Park" could be a closing song rather than an album opener: "...If I could take my rest/Back in the belly from where I came/nobody knows my name…" Burger's piano highlights the lilting melody on the horizon of her poignant lyrics but never gets maudlin. The title track is brighter, framed in an arrangement that approaches Baroque pop. Pump organ, Wurlitzer, Watkins' fiddle, crisp snare, and reverbed electric guitars bump under O'Donovan's in the rear view lyrics. "Donal Óg" commences with long, modal, droning electric guitars, its undercurrent of Celtic melody is sad and wistful in a narrative that's equally painful and affirmative. The voice of her grandfather wafts in from the margins in its closing moments, underscoring its poignancy. Gabriel Kahane arranges the strings for Brooklyn Rider on "The King of All Birds," a minor-key, acoustic-electric rocker with winds and brass patched into its final frames to add texture and harmonic imagination. Furtado's banjo, Watkins', fiddle, and Laura Veirs' backing vocal adorn the shimmering, heartbroken waltz "Not the Leaving." It's answered by "Detour Sign," in which O'Donovan's protagonist blows up a relationship, deciding love is not enough in facing of her life challenges. Amid the meld of guitars, the Wurlitzer erects the tune's spine; it buoys the words -- which admit regret even as they decide a course of action -- as well as the rest of the instrumentation. Closer "Jupiter" contains words that almost contradict it. Amid bittersweet memory, temporal displacement, and the tension of greeting an uncertain future, the protagonist concludes in the resolve that love triumphs. The vanguard folk-cum-art song music is bracing, led by the strings of Brooklyn Rider. In the Magic Hour lives up to its title. O'Donovan's sometimes searing, always poetically rendered lyrics are matched by astute, economically articulated melodies. These songs leave listeners with the impression that they actively chose to grant emotions and memory places as proper collaborators here. O'Donovan seems certain that as she allows them voice, the trails they carve in the heart become as priceless as what they teach. ~ Thom Jurek

Country - Released September 30, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released March 25, 2016 | Yep Roc Records

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Country - Released June 21, 2019 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released May 27, 2016 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released November 30, 2016 | Yep Roc Records

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Folk/Americana - Released September 9, 2016 | Yep Roc Records

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Country - Released October 19, 2018 | Yep Roc Records