Building on the tentative steps into Americana on her Bela Fleck-produced major label debut, 1989's HELPLESS HEART, 1991's A REAL LIFE STORY drops the Irish elements of Maura O'Connell's music almost entirely. Although her vocals still have a recognizable Celtic lilt to them, her song selection and Greg Penny's alterna-folkie production--not that far from his earlier work for Rickie Lee Jones and k.d. lang--give this album a much different flavor. The songs are a well-chosen lot--O'Connell's a strictly interpretive singer who doesn't write--featuring gems like Shawn Colvin's delicate "I Don't Know Why," John Hiatt's wry "When We Ran" and a fearless take on Tom Waits's difficult "Broken Bicycles." The arrangements, featuring contributions from Penny, Jane Siberry sideman Teddy Borowiecki on accordion and lang's longtime musical partner Ben Mink on fiddle, strike a balance between rustic simplicity and art-pop complexity without tipping too far in either direction. A REAL LIFE STORY is probably the best starting point for the Maura O'Connell novice.
AllMusic Review by AllMusic