Bull Frogs Croon (and Other Songs)
Yep Roc Records
If there was ever a voice that might act as a salve against the bruising of this modern world it’s surely Aoife O’Donovan’s – I’ve been a fan of her work since the earliest Crooked Still days but it’s her solo albums where that voice – musically, vocally and as both songwriter and song stylist – has fully matured. She is like no one else. (Okay, quick reference, if you’ve loved Alison Krauss – and how could you not?! – and you’re yet to hear Aoife then that’s your touchstone).
Here on a song cycle built from the parts of poetry O’Donovan’s voice soars and soothes, its sits calmly deep inside these pieces – you never knew you needed a song-cycle about the bullfrog’s croon eh? You’d also never know that these were settings of poetic texts with Americana song-shades draped atop – unless you read a review pointing out that the project was started in 2015 when Aoife was commissioned to stitch a tapestry of song from patches of poetry. She chose the work of Peter Sears – he was Oregon’s poet laureate in 2014 – and his death in 2017 makes the final reveal of this project all the more poignant.
Violinst Brittany Haas, violist Mario Gotoh and bassist Paul Kowert create the main musical bed. The sheets of sound are neatly tucked in by O’Donovan with co-production assistance from violinist Jeremy Kittel and the Louisville Symphony Orchestra conductor Teddy Abrams. The needle that works the threat on many of these pieces is O’Donovan’s own stunning guitar work.
To round this out as a full EP – it’s nearly album-length at close to half an hour – O’Donovan revisits two Crooked Still songs, Irish folk song Lakes of Pontchartrain and Hazel Dickens’ Pretty Bird.
It speaks to the sound she’s found and made her own that there’s a seamlessness running through these recordings. It’s impossible – without reading the liners – to know where originals, covers and adaptations start and end. It’s all in service of the writing but it’s all now made to feel like Aoife O’Donovan Music. That’s the brand. Exquisite.
Like Billie Holiday or Karen Carpenter or Emmylou Harris, Aoife has a voice to save you. To take you away. To make you feel less pressured in this cruel, strange world.
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