After logging time as a member of the Blacks and Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, singer/guitarist and only occasional songwriter Nora O'Connor is ready for the spotlight. Although at nine tracks and just over a half an hour, her debut is short enough to be considered an EP, there is enough evidence in its abbreviated playing time to prove she's a serious and talented frontperson in the roots/country genre. Her emotional voice is light and airy but reveals a dusky jazzy undertone similar to combination of Norah Jones, Rickie Lee Jones, and Lori Carson, the latter of whom she covers on the beautiful yet sad closing, "Down Here." While the material is a smorgasbord of country, folk, honky tonk, and pop -- sometimes most of the above as on the bouncy opener, "My Backyard" -- it's far less insurgent than many of the acts on the Bloodshot label. Bird's sad violin and Kelly Hogan's lovely harmony vocals add a melancholy depth to Jim Mathis' "The Bottoms," and her fleet touch works wonders on the cover of Stevie Nicks' rather obscure "That's Alright." Certainly her stirring version of this track should drive listeners back to the original (from Fleetwood Mac's Mirage album). The same holds true for her moody, noir jazz rendition of the Kitty Wells weeper "Love Letters." Bandmember Matt Weber contributes his jaunty "OK With Me," and adds sassy twang guitar. Information about individual personnel on each tune is missing, but the band perfectly augments each cut, neither overplaying nor laying back. Sweet yet with a tangy aftertaste, O'Connor's album is a subtly sparking gem, frustrating only in its length, and well worth searching out for Americana folk, country, and roots lovers.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz