Aiofe O'Donovan has been on a roll. As lead singer of the well-regarded alt.-bluegrass band, Crooked Still, O'Donovan helped put the alt. in the bluegrass with her light, sometimes breathy vocals. She also gained attention for singing on two songs on "The Goat Rodeo Sessions." She's now on her own (Crooked Still is on hiatus) for her first full-length disc.
O'Donovan shows she is more that up to the task, starting with Lay My Burden Down, which the Massachusetts native and now Brooklyn-based resident previously had the good fortune of having recorded by Alison Krauss. O'Donovan doesn't have quite the vocal beauty of Krauss (who does?), but she goes from her typically tender vocals to infusing the song with forcefulness, something that indicates this is going to be a bit different than her other material.
The closing Oh, Mama underscores a diversity largely absent from O'Donovan's previous repertoire. The song has a bit of a Band-like quality to it and falls into more of a groove than most of the material.
O'Donovan's voice remains the focus throughout (Brian Rose), and that's a good thing. There's no rushing the delivery, with the songs sprinkled by banjo and pedal steel. Red & White & Blue & Gold, a tale of love that also sounds like something Krauss could well sing, works quite well. O'Donovan mixes it up sonically and vocally on Beekeeper and Glowing Heart.
O'Donovan finally steps out on her own - at least for now - and rolls on.