Aoife1_Aug2015_joannachattman

AOIFE O’DONOVAN

In the quiet moments found between touring her first solo album and collaborating
with mainstay folk and bluegrass peers, Aoife O’Donovan found the inspiration to
write her sophomore album “In the Magic Hour” — out Jan. 22, 2016 on Yep Roc
Records.

“Flying, getting the rental car, eating all my meals alone…” O’Donovan says. “I just
remember sitting with a book in Germany two winters ago, just feeling so happy
that after the show I could have a Hefeweizen and read and not talk to anybody. And
I think that gave me more time to edit my lyrics and really be more mindful with
them.”

The songwriting process for “In the Magic Hour” coincided with the death of
O’Donovan’s grandfather, at age 93. She remembers him as a “gentle soul,” in the
small Irish village of Clonakilty where he lived. The lyrics on “In the Magic Hour” are
infused with a sense of loss and mortality’s dark certainty. But the album is just as
much an ode to O’Donovan’s joyful childhood visits to Ireland. Aunts, uncles,
grandparents and flocks of cousins would gather at the Clonakilty seaside to swim in
the chilly ocean and sing together in the lingering Irish summer twilight. “In my
memory it was sunny every day,” O’Donovan says. “Although that definitely cannot
be true.”

The result of O’Donovan’s days of solitude is a 10-song album full of the singer’s
honeyed vocals mixed with gauzy, frictionless sounds: splashing cymbals, airy
harmonies, the leisurely baritone musings of an electric guitar.
O’Donovan had not yet performed many of the songs live before arranging and
recording them over the course of three sessions in Tucker Martine’s (The
Decemberists, Neko Case), studio in Portland, OR. “The whole recording process was
really Tucker [Martine] and me taking these songs and building them from the
ground up,” O’Donovan says. The result is deliberate but not over-done, the
freshness of the material intact.

While “In The Magic Hour” rekindles the creative partnership with Grammy-
nominated producer Martine, the album also highlights the fruits of O’Donovan’s
various career collaborations. Composer Gabriel Kahane, New York’s string quartet
Brooklyn Rider and musician Chris Thile all lend musical and vocal support, as well
as I’m With Her band members Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz, plus many more.
Throughout “In the Magic Hour,” O’Donovan’s grandfather flits in and out like a
beloved specter. His voice appears in the mournful “Donal Óg,” tremulous and
faraway. And the transcendent “Magpie,” named for Ireland’s ubiquitous birds, was
written for him.

“There are flocks, but you often see just one solo bird,” O’Donovan says. “And I really
like that they’re these creatures that have the whole sky at their disposal. You can be
a loner, or you can be at the front of the V.”
Flight and loneliness are enduring themes throughout “In the Magic Hour,” which
takes much of its inspiration from O’Donovan’s itinerant lifestyle. But she finds
herself reaching, again and again, for something more substantial. The songs on “In
the Magic Hour” are like specks of dust floating in the tall arches of a cathedral, privy
to the endless rituals of life and death and stirred occasionally by the flutter of
pigeon wings. Graceful and light, they search, softly, for a place to rest.