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MAURA O’CONNELL

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 Shipbuildingis remade in the image of southern gospel, and Jimmy McCarthy’s The Bright Blue Roseis 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. www.mauraoconnell.com

Download tracks: Shipbuilding, Anach Cuain