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Summer Fly

Down By the Sally Gardens


The Blessing

Performance Review

We just had Maura O’Connell on June 11, 2011 at the McKinney Performing Arts Center and in our five year history of concerts, by far, Maura’s is one of the best I have yet to experience.
I have to admit I happened upon her at an Arts Midwest Conference showcase and after her first song, I knew I had to bring her to Texas. I made the right choice, and my audience agreed.
From her first note to her last, she had the audience on the edge of their seats. She is captivating and has the stage presence that pulls you into one of the most memorable events you have the privilege and honor to be a part of.
I can only see her getting bigger, but unlikely better, as I cannot imagine how she could even do that. Her wit, charm and ability to establish a connection with the audience made you feel that you were in a living room and a part of her family.

David Taylor, Director of McKinney Performing Arts Center

Album Review-Naked with Friends

"Naked With Friends"

Kindred spirits: De Dannan, Mary Black, Alison Krauss

Performing a cappella requires a leap of faith for most vocalists, but for Irish-born Maura O'Connell, it's as natural as breathing. She sounds right at home on her new CD, the Grammy-nominated "Naked With Friends," performing traditional ballads and contemporary songs, mostly in English and Gaelic. Of course, even in an unadorned setting, a stellar guest list doesn't hurt. Dolly Parton, Mary Black, Alison Krauss, Paul Brady and Tim O'Brien are among the singers who lend their voices to this soulful collection.

Well-known for her wise choice of material and gift for storytelling, O'Connell takes full advantage of her remarkably resonant alto here. Elvis Costello's antiwar theme "Shipbuilding" triggers one of her most emotionally compelling interpretations, with help from the Settles Connection choir, and her take on Joan Armatrading's "Weakness in Me" is similarly moving. Looking to her Celtic roots for inspiration, O'Connell also turns in a breathtakingly lovely rendition of "Maidín I M'Béarra." Parton's unmistakable voice adds silver harmonies to the opening cut, "The Bright Blue Rose," but the standout tracks include a duet with O'Brien ("The Blacksmith") and the performances enhanced by Krauss ("Some People's Lives") and O'Connell's sister Áine Derrane (Holly Near's "Hay Una Mujer Desapercida").
As bold as it is, "Naked With Friends" isn't really a departure for O'Connell; it's an intimate homecoming.

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Mike Joyce

Album Review Naked with Friends

Naked With Friends Sugar Hill Records ****

All bets are off on Maura O’Connell’s aptly titled Naked With Friends . Jettisoning all instrumental scaffolding, O’Connell has returned to her real roots. Her eclectic songs shimmer in the heat of their own forging: a visceral version of Anach Cuain , with Paul Brady, eviscerates the baggage from one of the tradition’s so-called “big songs”. Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding is remade in the image of southern gospel, and Jimmy McCarthy’s The Bright Blue Rose is invigorated by harmonies Kate Rusby and Dolly Parton as delicate as a butterfly’s wing with. The rest is a similarly stellar roll call, but what matters most is O’Connell’s musical equivalent of a parachute jump without a safety cord. Bold in conception, brazenly uncompromising in execution.

Siobhan Long

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