Aoife O’Donovan is not a household name, even among most Americana music fans. But the artists she has worked with over the last decade are. As a founding member of progressive bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, O’Donovan has found acclaim that has only grown over the course of 5 albums. As vocalist on the all-star “Goat Rodeo Sessions” album, O’Donovan added a Grammy award to that acclaim. But now Aoife O’Donovan is ready to step out of the collaborative spotlight with her first solo album “Fossils”, coming June 11 from Yep Roc Records.
The album’s first single, “Red & White & Blue & Gold”, leaves no doubt that O’Donovan’s solo work is a very different animal than her work with Crooked Still. The rest of the album just reinforces that message.
Throughout the album, O’Donovan’s always ethereal voice becomes even more so, inviting comparisons to Alison Krauss, a comparison driven home even further by the album’s opening track, “Lay My Burden Down.” While it’s an O’Donovan composition, it is a song already familiar by its inclusion on Krauss’ 2011 album “Paper Airplane.” It’s a brilliant choice to open the album because it both gets the Krauss comparisons out of the way and lets the listener hear the different interpretations of the two tracks.
But don’t think that “Red & White & Blue & Gold” or “Lay My Burden Down” tell the tale of the entire album. Given a blank page to work with, O’Donovan stretches herself in many directions. “Beekeeper”, the album’s best track, brings some steel to O’Donovan’s vocals while “Fire Engine” could almost be classified a rocker, with a Johnny Cash style train beat behind it.
Tucker Martine is a perfect choice to produce “Fossils”. A producer who has worked with My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, and Abigail Washburn isn’t going to be afraid of a little bit of coloring outside the lines and Martine does an excellent job of setting a perfect stage for O’Donovan and then getting out of the way to let her shine.
If “Fossils” is any indication of what the future has in store for Aoife O’Donovan, she may become a household name in the Americana scene as a solo artist and not just for her collaborative work. “Fossils” has plenty of meat on the bone for Americana and College radio to spin and O’Donovan’s high profile appearances as part of the Bonnaroo 2013 Bluegrass Superjam and on NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion” should serve to introduce her to unfamiliar audiences.
Aoife O’Donovan’s “Fossils” will be released June 11 on Yep Roc Records. If you’re a fan of Americana music, or just artful songwriting and beautiful vocals, it’s an album you’re going to want to have in your collection.