Maura O'Connell Walls And Windows

Maura O'Connell does what few other Irish vocalists do: she lives in Nashville. At first glance a seemingly odd choice, given her deep roots fronting traditional Irish band, De Dannon, yet the gap between Irish folk and American country is a surprisingly small one and with her eighth release she may just have proven how perfect the combination can be. In fact, O'Connell has a uniquely clear and powerful voice, and its marriage to this crack team of Nashville players, combined with her uncanny ability to seek out and interpret the works of contemporary songwriters like Patty Griffin, Ron Sexsmith and Kim Richey, proves spellbinding. Most importantly, that rich Irish voice is right at home surrounded by the lush instrumentation of her country-reared counterparts. Martin Holcombe's excellent "A Far Cry" is easily the album's best track, showcasing her soulful gift against a backdrop of classical guitar and familiar Uillean pipes. Yet the extent of her ability is best demonstrated by taking a Van Morrison classic, like the dramatically over-covered "Crazy Love," and breathing new life and ownership into it. Maura's ship has most certainly (and most deservedly) come in. Long may she sail. (Sugar Hill)