ALBANY - Maura O'Connell is a songwriter's singer.Or more precisely, a song interpreter.
The Irish singer, who left Dublin for Nashville in the early 1980s after a stint with Irish group DeDannan, doesn't write her own music, has no plans to write her own music and put simply, doesn't want to write her music.
Blessed with an impressively strong, warm voice, O'Connell is a singer who sings other people's songs.That's exactly what she did at The Egg on Friday night, playing to a small, quiet but appreciative crowd in the cozy Lewis A. Swyer theater.O'Connell dazzled fans, who barely filled three-quarters of the intimate venue on Friday night, serving up a hearty sampling of music from her latest album, "Walls & Windows," as well as selected favorite cuts from past albums.Performing with a crack, versatile four-piece band, O'Connell was engaging and amazing, her supple, full vocals effortlessly filling the Swyer theater and leaving fans in breathless awe at times with the sheer passion and emotion in her voice.O'Connell is no stranger to the Capital Region; the singer has been appearing here since 1989, playing everywhere from Schenectady's Central Park and The Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and now, The Egg.
She seemed to relish playing in the new surroundings, kicking off the first of two 50-minute sets with a pair of upbeat numbers from "Walls," Ron Sexsmith's irresistible "Don't Ask Why" and Kim Richey's "Every River."
"I've been all around here, in Albany, and this is a nice place to be," O'Connell said of The Egg.Wearing a long black skirt and a smile, O'Connell egged the crowd into being more upbeat and making more noise as she started the second set with a buoyant reading of "To Be The One."
O'Connell was in good spirits, at times dancing around the stage, at times closing her eyes as she belted out the songs. She often used her hands to help amplify the emotion she felt, especially during ballads like "Blessing" and "Follow On."
But O'Connell's somber selection of music - which dominated the night - made it difficult for fans to be very cheery.Sure, songs like Eric Clapton's "I Got Lost" and "Walls" are darker songs, exploring the gone-wrong side of relationships, but that darkness was simply beautiful when O'Connell is singing about it.
Her voice sheer perfection, O'Connell made "Walls" come to life. Renditions of Patti Griffin's bouncy "I Wonder" and the swampy, down-and-dirty country-folk of "Long Ride Home" was alive and lively, unlike the staid versions on the album.O'Connell turned Clapton's bossa nova "I Get Lost" into a mournful ballad. She poured emotion into "A Far Cry" and "To The Homeland" (a song O'Connell said reminded her of "a spaghetti western") earning loud applause and a few oohs and aahs from fans.
Her older songs got O'Connell her loudest applause, with fans clapping loudly for the gorgeous "Down By The Salley Gardens," Paul Brady's "Stories," "Follow On" and the folk-pop duet "The Blue Train."She is scheduled to appear at the Irish 2000 Festival at the Altamont Fairgrounds on Sept. 21.
© 2002 Schenectady Daily Gazette.