One Longfellow Square was rapidly filling up as I arrived to
hear Aoife (pronounced, “Eefa”) O’Donovan, this past Wednesday night. The twenty-eight-year-old lead singer of the band, Crooked Still, was on the second stop of a
tour with a different band with a bit of a different sound. I loved a beautiful
duet that I heard between Aoife, and Heather Masse, on a recent airing of
Prairie Home Companion, so I was very excited to see her. The audience was mostly in their forties and
fifties but there was a wide range of ages present.
She was petite, wearing a little summer dress, with her
blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. She sounds a bit huskier than Alison
Krauss, but rivaled her in sweetness and emotional expressiveness. They began
with a traditional tune, “Trials, Troubles and Tribulations”, and then played
one of her compositions (which ironically, was recorded by Alison Krauss),
entitled, “Lay My Burden Down”.
The band was beyond excellent, with some show stopping solos
by lead guitarist, Ryan Scott. His guitar playing was intense and frenetic but
never lost control. Jed Wilson’s eyes were closed as his fingers hovered over
the keyboard like electric mixers. Charlie Rose, (no, not that Charlie Rose),
made the pedal steel howl, Jacob Silver was smooth and constant on the bass and
Robin McMillan held it all together with drums.
of the evening reminded me of the jazziness of Joni Mitchell’s live album, Shadows
and Light*, and some of it was more like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt or John Prine. I
loved the little shake of the head she did when she was really digging the
music. As much as I enjoyed her beautiful presence and the obvious talent of
the band, I was dismayed because I could hardly hear her. She had a delicate
voice, smoky and gentle, and sometimes she was engulfed by the power of the
band. I hope they balance the sound a bit better as the tour continues because
her singing was too good to be missed.
She taught us some words to her song, “Oh Mama”, and we
joined in together for a sing along, which always creates a more intimate
feeling. She ended with a ripping version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Letter”.
She recently recorded “The Goat Rodeo Sessions” with Stuart
Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Yo Yo Ma. You can catch some of those
studio sessions on YouTube. I got chills viewing Here and Heaven.
Visit her website at aoifeodonovan.com.
Press Photo of Aoife O'Donovan from aoifeodonovan.com/photos
* Joni ventured from her folk roots into jazz and toured in
1979, releasing a live album in 1980. It featured Pat Matheny on lead guitar,
Jaco Pastorius on bass, Don Alias on drums, Lyle Mays on keyboards and Michael
Brecker on saxophone.
For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at onelongfellowsquare.com.