Call me crazy, but I hear a bit of Patti Smith in Aiofe O’Donovan’s startlingly lovely new album In the Magic Hour.
No, she’s not following in Smith’s punk-rock vocal-guitar shredding wake. But she does share Smith’s rare gift of waving deeply personal meditations in her lyrics a la Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and a handful of other boldface Americana songsmiths.
On the ten songs on this, O’Donovan’s second solo album, the Crooked Still alum melodically analyzes the intersections of ambition, loneliness, family and solitude. But unlike the full-on assault of much of Smith’s punk rock, O’Donovan wraps her words around impressionistic sounds reminiscent of some of the work of The Beatles (Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver), Tori Amos (Scarlet’s Walk comes immediately to mind) and other dream weavers.
You’ve likely read some reviews comparing O’Donovan – who is joined by guests including Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins and the Punch Brothers’ Chris Thile – with Patti Griffin and Shawn Colvin. Certainly songs such as the richly textured folk-with-Celtic ‘Magpie’ can bring those artists to mind.
But O’Donovan is no Griffin- or Colvin-come lately. Her song ‘Detour’ suggests as much Emmylou Harris as it does Griffin and Colvin while ‘The King of All Birds,’ with assertive strings and vocals would slip comfortably into a set by Amos.
When O’Donovan was writing the songs for this album, her family patriarch died. Indeed, his singing is heard on a snippet of the traditional Irish song ‘Donal Og’ and the album’s artwork features a 7-year-old O’Donovan frolicking in the small Irish town of Clonakilty on a visit to her grandfather.
The Boston-area born, Brooklyn-based O’Donovan is only 33, decades younger than Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and her other reported musical idols but this album proves her musical soul is just as old.
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Artist’s Website: http://www.aoifeodonovan.com
‘Magic Hour’ – official video: