Album review: Aoife O'Donovan, Fossils

By Graham Reid

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Album cover for Fossils by Aoife O'Donovan.
Album cover for Fossils by Aoife O'Donovan.

You will only recognise this American singer-songwriter if you read fine print.

She wrote Lay My Burden Down - the opener here - which Alison Krauss recorded a few years back, she was 10 years in folk-bluegrass band Crooked Still, and appears on the Goat Radio Sessions alongside classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

She's classically trained, but on this, her solo debut, she's firmly in a world between early confessional Joni Mitchell, the largely forgotten and emotionally intense Judee Sill and alt-country, crossing into Norah Jones territory.

In spacious settings for pedal steel, slightly eerie banjo and unnerving fiddle, sometimes slashing electric guitar and backing vocals, O'Donovan delivers songs that are adult and poetic. Briar Rose alludes to Anne Sexton's poem of the same name, and incest; there are the fumbles of love on Thursday's Child, and the unsettling I'm Alone is about the bittersweet prison of a relationship.

O'Donovan sings in a gentle Americana manner but possesses a distinctive style and when the tempo picks up - the brittle Fire Engine - she can unleash a real punch.

Aoife (pronounced "ee-fuh") O'Donovan is a fresh voice ... and this is very impressive.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Hypnotic solo debut from a name to remember

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