Maura O'Connell, a brilliant singer, has always had a strong voice and a skilled delivery. I hope that she's standing tall and proud now, a recording dream fully realized and a new CD just released. "Naked With Friends", brings to the ears of a modern and high-tech world the simplicity and beauty of music from an earlier world, the beauty of singing without musical accompaniment. You'll hear songs accompanied by singing, which gives as much support and framing as any orchestra. Quite possibly, you may not believe your ears; you may even begin searching the credits for instrumentalists! Well, you'll find the instrumentalists, but their instrument of choice is their voice. Aha!!!
"In interviews over the years, I'm always being asked why I don't play an instrument to accompany myself," says Maura, "or why don't I write songs. I've gathered the consciousness that singing should be just fine, that it is a viable talent on its own." And so true it is on "Naked", with Maura's strong voice and a cast of similarly experienced, well-trained and award-winning voices to who sing along with or provide a lovely background of support for Maura on the entire CD.
Among the guest singers are Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Kate Rusby, Paul Brady, Mary Black, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Aoife O'Donovan (Crooked Still), Sarah Dugas (The Duhks), Mairéad Ní Mhaorigh, Moya Brennan, Liam Bradley, Declan O'Rourke, and O'Connell's sister, Áine Derrane.
"On this album," O'Connell says, "I just wanted to capture the feeling of joy that comes from people singing together." And what amazingly, unbelievably glorious singing it is! Take a listen for yourself on Maura's MySpace page and see if you don't agree. Listen to "Shipbuilding" and let me know if you miss any instruments, go ahead, I dare you.
Maura has said, "A lot of people think every singer is someone's puppet. That they are not fully invested in the song--that they are at the whim of a producer or songwriter or a band. Singing has been denigrated like that for too long." When a singer like Maura O'Connell has a beautiful voice; when a talented singer knows HOW to sing, being unbound by the adornments of instruments and such, there appears a sparkling light in the sound, that we cannot see at any other time.
There is an expression I discovered a few years back in reading about a nun, musician and mystic, the Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who described herself as "a feather on the breath of God". Surely, Maura's voice has been guided along as a feather on the breath of God!