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Aoife O'Donovan

In the Magic Hour – 2016 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Aoife O'Donovan

Whether Aoife O'Donovan has made the decision to leave her day job with Crooked Still remains to be seen, but based on the results of her second solo album, "In The Magic Hour," she'd clearly fare just fine if she opted to pursue her own career full time. It's not like she hasn't spread her wings far afield already; in recent years she's loaned her talents to a diverse array of musicians that includes Ollabelle, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Darol Anger, Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny Edgar Meyer, Stuart Duncan, Yo-Yo Ma, the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Utah Symphony. However, it's the sounds procured on individually - as reflected here - that demonstrate the confidence and creativity she manifests on her own.

For the most part, "In The Magic Hour" finds her keeping to a strikingly mellow mix, with songs such as "Stanley Park," "Hornets," "Detour Sign" and "Porch Light" casting a shimmering glow that's tranquil, dimly lit and yet still remarkably effervescent as well. Traditional instrumentation like fiddle, guitar and mandolin fill every quiet niche, but it's her tranquil tones - conveyed with a voice that's soft, soothing and beautifully beguiling - that make the most immediate impression. It's an unassuming effort to be sure, but one that's genuinely enchanting nonetheless.

Still there are times when these reverent tomes threaten to dissolve into the ether entirely. "Jupiter" is nearly entirely a capella, "The King of All Birds" is so sparse, it starts its fade even before it reaches its conclusion. The gently plodding "Not the Leaving" appears to completely contradict its title. Nevertheless, the modest approach O'Donovan takes overall conveys its charms economically, but effectively. No wonder then that "In The Magic Hour" clearly casts a spell.