Maura O'Connell

Wandering Home

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Wandering Home is an apt title for Maura O'Connell's first all-Irish album since leaving the Old Sod. The players are a who's who of modern Celtic music -- among them guitarist Arty McGlynn, fiddler Ciaran Tourish (of Altan), and bouzouki player Donal Lunny -- and the tunes are mostly traditional, if not always rendered in a strictly traditional style. For instance, there are shades of Roy Orbison in the more operatic moments of "I Hear You Calling Me," and her bluesy adaptation of an old folk tune such as "Irish Blues" has more than a hint of Billie Holiday to it. Needless to say, these are not the strongest tracks on the album. The transcendent moments come on the more hardcore trad numbers -- her heartbreaking rendition of "Teddy O'Neil," her revelatory take on the old chestnut "Down by the Sally Gardens" -- and on the startlingly out-of-place "Down Where the Drunkards Roll," which is one of the grimmest songs Richard Thompson ever wrote, but which O'Connell manages to imbue with a warmth and humanity miles removed from the jaded resignation of Linda Thompson's original version. Jerry Douglas is a brilliant producer and knows just how to showcase O'Connell's stunning voice.

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