Regular readers may recall previous mentions of Crooked Still on this blog; one of my favourite bands of recent years and unfortunately now on an extended break. However, the upside of this hiatus is the emergence of the various members in new band and solo projects. The latest news is from immensely gifted singer/songwriter Aoife O’Donovan, whose first solo album, Fossils, will be out on 11th June (available to pre-order on iTunes or on CD or vinyl at Yep Roc Records). You can also preview the tracks at Amazon here. Check out a performance of the track Beekeeper below, recorded at a recent radio session:
It was clear to me from the minute we discovered Crooked Still back in 2007/8 that Aoife (pronounced “ee-fuh” if you’re wondering) had star quality. The band had actually been going since 2001 when she was one of the founder members whilst studying at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. In a collective packed with musical talents (including fiddler Brittany Haas, banjo ace Greg Liszt, Corey DiMario on bass and fiddle champ Tristan Clarridge on cello, not forgetting the original (in every sense) cello player and founder member Rushad Eggleston), Aoife’s haunting vocals and occasional delicate guitar and baritone uke work elevated the music to a higher plane. She was also heavily involved in the sourcing of traditional songs and developing them with highly original new arrangements. Latterly her own compositions claimed more of a place both within Crooked Still and beyond, with her song Lay My Burden Down covered by Alison Krauss and Union Station. It featured both on the soundtrack of the quirky Tennessee-set film Get Low and on AKUS’ latest best seller Paper Airplane.
Both during and since her time with Crooked Still, O’Donovan has lent her considerable talents to a variety of other projects. For some years she’s been part of the all-female “folk-noir” trio (their description!) Sometymes Why, alongside Kristin Andreasson and Ruth Merenda. She also contributed her gorgeous vocals (and songwriting) to the Goat Rodeo Sessions album in 2011 with Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan and will be part of a US tour for the Sessions later this summer. In addition, she’s appeared frequently as a guest vocalist with both the Punch Brothers and the Noam Pikelny Band.
In amongst these collaborations, Aoife has found time to bring her first solo album Fossils to fruition, featuring ten original songs and the talents of band mates Ryan Scott (guitar), Jacob Silver (bass) and Robin MacMillan on drums. It ain’t bluegrass, that’s for sure, but it’s a quality mix of folky, bluesy, sometimes slightly rocky, really soulful music. My favourite tracks from what I’ve heard so far include Oh Mama, Beekeeper and the aforementioned Lay My Burden Down. Aoife and her band have been getting out and about recently to promote the album and the upcoming US tour dates (please, please plan a trip to the UK!) – on Tuesday this week (28th May) they made an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, followed by a set at Music City Roots the following night. You can stream the whole MCR segment here if you’re interested (pull the time bar along to about 1 hr 32 min for Aoife’s performance) or for your convenience, here’s a song from the same show.
If you’ve enjoyed Aoife’s music here, please consider buying Fossils at one of the links above, or at the least go ahead and like her Facebook page here or sign up for newsletter updates at her website here. She’s a superbly talented artist and one who deserves our support. If there’s any justice, one day she’ll break through in a major way as both performer and songwriter. Let’s hope we might get to see the Aoife O’Donovan Band performing these songs over in the UK soon…