Gig review: Aoife O’Donovan, Edinburgh

Aoife O'Donovan
Aoife O'Donovan
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STEPPING out from her role as lead vocalist with the prog-bluegrass band Crooked Still, Massachusetts singer Aoife O’Donovan proved that she can hold the floor with just an acoustic guitar and a repertoire of her own material punctuated by traditional songs and the odd cover.

Aoife O’Donovan - Pleasance, Edinburgh

* * * *

Silken-voiced and immediately engaging, she can nevertheless work up a good ole country holler, as in the glorious, full-on exhortation of Oh, Mama.

There were occasions when the PA might have been turned up just a little (a rare complaint; usually over-amplification is the bugbear) to bring out her quieter, more confiding lyrics such as the edgy Beekeeper or the erotically-charged journey of Thursday’s Child. In general, though, her seemingly effortless delivery rarely missed the mark.

A nod to her Irish lineage included Magpie, an eloquent tribute to her West Cork grandfather, and a winsome exposition of the traditional Lakes of Pontchartrain, while a fine a cappella rendition of the spiritual Troubled About Her Soul slipped neatly into her own, gospel inflected Lay My Burden Down.

In support, South Dakota’s Rachel Ries also saluted ancestors, with a heartfelt song for her Mennonite grandmother. Accompanying herself on electric guitar and keyboard, with James Smith on occasional mandolin and vocals, Ries proved something of a revelation with her piquant, nervy songs, such as the title track from her album, Ghost of a Gardener. She’s also surely the only singer-songwriter who sells jars of her own jam at gigs.

Seen on 30.05.14