After playing for a decade with the American progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still, Aoife O'Donovan records her first solo album and sets her sights on the big-league concert circuit. She has all the right credentials. She sounds cool, breathy and relaxed whether she is singing thoughtful ballads or country-rockers, and is an impressive writer, with gently mournful songs that at times are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.
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.
Aoife O’DonovanFossils(Yep Roc)Rating: 4 out of 5 starsStream the album The name — pronounced EEE-fah, by the way — might not be immediately recognizable, but singer/songwriter Aoife O’Donovan is no newcomer. She has already spent a decade fronting and releasing five studio albums with the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. In her spare time she contributed to the all-female acoustic act Sometymes Why.
Fossils finds singer-songwriter Aoife O'Donovan stepping away from the progressive bluegrass sensibility of her band Crooked Still. Despite the nod to the past in the album's title, O'Donovan eschews the presumed authenticity of folk and Americana music. However, she fails to establish a broader sonic palette, instead settling for burnished, almost rote arrangements that wobble like faulty compass needles between pop-country and singer-songwriter—pleasant but lacking tension and contrast.
After helming the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still for the past ten years, Aoife O’Donovan has stepped out on her own, a move that’s apparently long overdue given her collaborations with such virtuosos as Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Jim Lauderdale, Kathy Mattea and others of their ilk. Happily though, O’Donovan makes a formidable impression all her own, casting her sound with a celestial sheen that overrides the entire album. It’s not surprising, given her angelic vocals, and aside from the semi spunky “Fire Engine,” coated with the sweet veneer of pedal steel, and the easy pluck and ramble of “Briar Rose,” Fossils remains uniformly subdued throughout.