Maura O'Connell

Walls & Windows

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A number of fascinating opposites characterize Maura O'Connell's approach to music. Born and raised in Ireland, she currently lives in Nashville. She's recorded Celtic and country albums, but also worked with newgrass pioneers Jerry Douglas and Bela Fleck. Her rich, powerful voice, however, travels with her wherever she goes. Walls & Windows is her first recording in several years and her debut on the Sugar Hill label. This time she's backed by a full band with players like Darrell Scott and Dave Francis providing soulful, layered sound. This approach works well for O'Connell's potent vocals, providing lots of cushion on upbeat pieces like "Every River" and "Walls." Her song choice, as with previous projects, serves her well. She has chosen several pieces by Patty Griffin, including a passionate version of "I Wonder" with a backing vocal by the writer. There are two tracks, "To the Homeland" and "A Far Cry," by relative newcomer Malcolm Holcombe, and a lovely version of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love." "Blessing"'s emotional tug reminds one of Tony Price in a late-night bluesy mode, while a mellow version of John Prine's "Sleepy Eyed Boy" offers the perfect note to close the album on. It's refreshing that a singer purposely chooses to interpret and expose goods songs as opposed to writing new ones. Producer Ray Kennedy finds the right balance between singer and material, delivering a recording infused with rhythm and depth. Walls & Windows will be warmly welcomed by O'Connell's fans and anyone who enjoys soulful music.

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