Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 30/01/2014 | Aoife O’Donovan – The Bullingdon, Oxford

30/01/2014 | Aoife O’Donovan – The Bullingdon, Oxford

Lisa Ward


You’d be forgiven for assuming that Aoife O’Donovan has roots further south than Boston, her vocal style reminiscent more of the southern states, lyrics falling easily from her mouth. That’s not to say it’s a lazy styling though, in fact the precision of her vocals is the thing which carries her set from start to finish.

Opener Lay My Burden Down features sections which are limited to an infrequent strum of her guitar for accompaniment, in turn showcasing her ability to convey emotion in vocals alone. Gone is some of the heavier instrumentation of the album version, and in its place the song is allowed space to breathe, filling the room with its subtlety. It would be easy then to build a set reliant on vocals alone, but she navigates this trap with ease, adding Lovesick Redstick Blues (her nod to bluegrass festivals) into the mix. Despite the missing band members she’s still able to give the song a bluegrass vibe.

She also pays homage to her roots, the American with the traditional Pretty Polly a gruesome murder ballad, and the Irish in Lakes of Ponchartrain. Elsewhere her New York City home creates the backdrop for Fire Engine. It’s in this number her potential to cross over into more commercial waters becomes apparent. More pop in it’s melody, it contrasts with the mournful Tuesday’s Child, in which Aoife explores the influence of her day of birth.

With a cover of Blaze Foley’s Clay Pigeon thrown into the mix and a nod to Anne Sexton in Briar Rose it’s clear her influences range far and wide, which in turn leads to a diverse set. Coupled with an opening set from local singer Bethany Weimers, who delivers more ghostly numbers from her debut album Harpsichord Rowas well as newer songs from her forthcoming release (The Story I Breathe) it’s a near perfect evening. With the Bullingdon now masquerading as ‘The Art Bar’, what it’s lost in name it’s made up for in a revamped venue space, which makes seated shows now feel more intimate.