Nora O'Connor Til The Dawn

Membership in Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire and the Blacks are part of this Chicagoan singer-songwriter's CV. She steps into the spotlight on this solo debut in totally convincing style, demonstrating a sweet yet gritty voice and promising writing ability. There's a pleasing versatility in her sound too. The fiddle-fuelled "Bottoms" and "Nightingale" have an olde-tyme feel, a version of the classic "Love Letters" has a K.D. Lang-style torch and twang vibe, while the strings and steel-soaked "Tonight," is a hauntingly melancholic tune. Chicago comrades like Andrew Bird, Kelly Hogan and members of the Robbie Fulks and Chris Mills bands all contribute effectively. Just about the only complaint here is that, at just nine songs, 'Til The Dawn is over all too quickly. Apparently Ms. O'Connor also works as a bartender and a midwife's assistant, and is an ordained reverend. Given the strength of this sparkling debut, she should be able to give up a day job or two soon. (Bloodshot)