Barnes & Noble
Not that Maura O'Connell has lost any of her heart-tugging Irish tenderness, but on her tenth solo album, the former DeDanaan lead singer showcases some urgent vocalizing with a throaty, bluesy edge la Allison Moorer and musical textures that incorporate southern rock, Irish, and country flourishes. Meaty songs -- by the likes of Jim Lauderdale & Leslie Satcher, Mindy Smith, Kim Richey & Tim Krekel, and Gary Burr & Patti Griffin -- form a narrative arc that finds O'Connell pondering life's vicissitudes from emotional extremes. She brings the songs to life with her expressive, husky voice and the stirrings of her heart, producing passages of exquisite beauty. On Burr & Griffin's "Up and Flying," which she does at an ominous, moody pace, O'Connell rages against the stasis in her life as she ponders a lover who has moved on without missing a beat. The propulsive drive and soaring choruses of "Trip Around the Sun" frame a determined vocal testimony that finds O'Connell verbally shrugging off the things she can't control and trying to see a better day ahead. On the roiling ballad "Hold On," O'Connell engages in an internal dialogue aimed at giving her a reason to keep breathing in the face of destructive tendencies. The spare arrangement and tantalizing slide guitar and keyboard support on Mindy Smith's "Going Down in Flames" is an apt commentary on the anguish described by the lyrics, which O'Connell brings to life with a vocal that's alternately weary and enraged. Producer Jerry Douglas does O'Connell proud with judicious arrangements that enhance the mood but never overshadow the singer, who proves herself a magnificent vessel for conveying a multitude of complex emotions.