All posts tagged: Aoife O’Donovan

Saturday Soundtrack: The Old Songs

I’ve found myself drawn to several musical performances online this week during our troubled times. Most are covers — where musicians perform works by other musicians — and while the date of the originals range across centuries, most of the versions that have touched me were recently recorded. While some are instrumentals, knowing the lyrics to the songs has given me a context to hear the music in new ways. I want to share with you a few of my favorites from this music for troubled times. “We’re not doing my original songs,” Rhiannon Giddens says in her recent NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, before she and her partner, Francesco Turrisi, launch into an old spiritual, “’cause with these kinds of emotions, the old songs say it best.” The set list for the 20 minute mini-concert, filmed at Turrisi’s home in Ireland in late May, goes back to “the origins” as Giddens says, and includes Black As Crow, Spiritual, and the tune set Carolina Gals / Last Chance. While all are wonderful, the haunting vocals and …

Saturday Soundtrack: Aoife O’Donovan

This Saturday I’m featuring the second of the three members of the roots music trio I’m With Her, the gifted singer and songwriter Aoife O’Donovan. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, O’Donovan grew up spending her summers in Ireland and singing songs with her extended family. She studied contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music, and joined together with another classmate, plus two Berklee College of Music alums, to form the alternative-bluegrass band Crooked Still. That band, and their impressive debut album Hop High, was where I was introduced to O’Donovan.* Fiddler Brittany Haas (sister of Saturday Music musician Natalie Haas) and cellist Tristan Clarridge joined the band in 2008. Their version of When First Unto This Country is a lively tune representative of O’Donovan’s work during this period. The band is now on hiatus as the members pursue other projects. Many people know O’Donovan through her song Lay My Burden Down, which Alison Krauss included on her Paper Airplane album. For several years, the soulful O’Donovan tune Oh Mama, from her debut solo album Fossils and heard in this live version from …

Saturday Soundtrack: I’m With Her

“When you go to heaven and hear singing, it will sound like these three women.” Those were the words of mandolinist Chris Thile at a Kennedy Center concert in 2016. He was describing I’m With Her, the Grammy-award winning roots music trio composed of Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins. These three women bring together lyrical songwriting, sterling instrumental chops, and ethereal harmonies to make beautiful — some would say heavenly — music. The group of singer-songwriters came together in 2014 and have been steadily building a catalog of mesmerizing songs and a loyal following. Yes, that loyal fan base includes me, as they were also involved in my first and only case of celebrity stalking, but that’s another story. I first saw the group live in 2015. Having seen each of them with earlier bands and in solo appearances, I knew that they could forge a distinct and memorable musical partnership. I was not disappointed. There’s so much to highlight here. Nina Simone’s acapella Be My Husband was one of the first songs of …

Christ Thile

Acoustic Music is Alive and Well

“When you go to heaven and hear singing, it will sound like these three women.” So opined Chris Thile after the Americana trio I’m With Her finished a short yet moving set in the first half of an incredible three hours of music last evening at the Kennedy Center.  The concert hall’s acoustics were ringing all evening as the sold out crowd not only enjoyed the beautiful harmonies from I’m With Her’s Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan, but also the instrumental talents and music-making of mandolinist extraordinaire Thile and the Punch Brothers, along with Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyers, virtuosi of the banjo and upright bass respectively. The Kennedy’s Center policy against photography leaves me using old photos from other concerts, but that hardly matters. The music was the focus last evening. Thile was invited to curate a four-day American Acoustic Music Festival, and Friday evening’s show was clearly the headliner.  The Punch Brothers  opened the first half of the show with a tight set capped by the raucous Rye Whiskey.  I’m With Her followed, with …

Observations from the Road (The Celebrity Sighting – Obscure Music – Edition)

I have been on the road forever it seems.  So here are a few “Observations from the road…” posts which are – as always advertised – quirky and perhaps not ready for prime time.  You’ve been warned. Celebrity Stalking:  True story.  As I was walking through National Airport earlier this afternoon following a flight back from Chicago, I noticed two young ladies carrying cases for a guitar and mandolin.  I had been focused on getting something for a late lunch before rushing to the office, but my brain did engage to the point where I said to myself, “That sure looked like Aoife O’Donovan – and I bet that was Sarah Jarosz with her.” At this point you may be asking yourself, just who are Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz? Well, for music lovers who veer away from the Taylor Swift variety of music, they are two-thirds of one of the most terrific – yet widely unheralded – music groups today:  I’m With Her. (And no, they are not connected to the Hillary Clinton campaign.  …

Red Wing III: A Quick Look Back

After 12 hours of music on Saturday at a sold-out Red Wing Roots Music Festival in Natural Chimneys Park, I’m going to let the photos speak for Day Two of the festival, with only a few quick observations thrown in along the way. Scott Miller is a terrific songwriter and a good performer with a great sense of humor.  Is There Room on the Cross for Me? was only one of a number of smartly written songs in his set.  Fiddler Rayna Gellert was also a find.  Check them out. I liked Missy Raines and the New Hip better when they were all acoustic.  The electric guitarist was good, but her music lost some of its subtlety and just became more noise.  That said, she’s still a terrific bass player out flexing her chops and trying new things…and that’s all good. I’m not sure who booked Nikki Lane for a prime 6 p.m. slot on the main stage, but to my ear a little of her honky tonking trash from Nashville went a long way.  …