When: Sat., Sept. 21 2013
AOIFE O’DONOVAN Drawing on childhood summers studying Celtic song craft in Ireland, American Aoife O’Donovan created a niche that joined freak-folk to the progressive string band strain pioneered by Bela Fleck. Lending her breathy, ethereal vocals to folk noir trio Sometymes Why and experimental string virtuosos Crooked Still, O’Donovan looked set to be the next alt-Americana darling. So it shocked prog-roots fans when O’Donovan’s long-awaited solo debut ditched the artsy folk fusion of yore for an indie singer/songwriter path, steeped in the supple genre-sampling of Joni Mitchell. A back-porch sensibility still bubbles under new LP Fossils, but O’Donovan’s music is rooted rather than rootsy. O’Donovan’s take on her own “Lay My Burden Down,” famously covered by Alison Krauss, tells the tale. While Krauss’ version is stripped down and earthy, O’Donovan’s walks a tightrope between shimmering heights and fear of falling. Likewise, a thread of anxiety winds through the burnished Indian summer nostalgia of “Red & White & Blue & Gold.” Like their Celtic models, O’Donovan’s pretty melodies are driven by the tension between the airy and the unsettled, and that stops these gorgeous songs from simply floating away.