Nora O'Connor

Til the Dawn (Bloodshot)

SXSW Records

Nora O'Connor

'Til the Dawn (Bloodshot)

Country music is the progeny of traditional Scotch-Irish music, imported by immigrants and grown in America's rich bluegrass soil. It's fitting, then, that Nora O'Connor, a Chicagoan born to Irish parents, would offer up a collection of honky-tonk, country, and folk pop songs on her second solo album. Growing up, O'Connor combined a love of Kate Bush with Emerald Isle classics her father taught her. (Live, she covers Jane Siberry, Prince, Nanci Griffith, and Ween.) 'Til the Dawn's nine cuts are gently paced and drip with sweet harmonies, like a summertime road trip through idyllic countrysides. "OK With Me" chugs to a late-Fifties Johnny Cash locomotive beat, while O'Connor's voice rings like a Tibetan singing bowl in the bare guitar/vox "Down Here." Still more, "Love Letters" is the cinematic rendering of a smoky subterranean lounge, with Andrew Bird's thereminlike violin punctuating the Chicago chanteuse's satiny vox. Her range comes as no surprise to those familiar with O'Connor's career, as a member of the Blacks, to performances with Jeff Tweedy, New Pornographers, and Mavis Staples. Given her vocal chops, O'Connor shows restraint by keeping the album to a tight half-hour, letting the songs speak for themselves. Like Count Basie said, sometimes the notes you don't hear are most important. (Friday, March 18, 1am @ B.D. Riley's)

**.5

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