Album review: "Some Strange Country"
It all comes down to Aoife O'Donovan's vocals.
Sure, the music on "Some Strange Country," the upcoming release from alt-bluegrass band Crooked Still, owes much to the players' mastery, but it's O'Donovan's vocals that set it apart.
I had a feeling this band was something special when I heard "Ain't No Grave" on its 2006 release, "Shaken by a Low Sound." Of course Johnny Cash's rendition on his last album, "American VI: Ain't No Grave," sent chills down many spines. But give this band's version a chance and you'll likely agree that the young O'Donovan's crystal-clear vocals give the song a different depth.
If anything, the band and O'Donovan's vocals have only improved on this album. The best description may well be that it's just plain fun. You can practically envision the players smiling and silently joking.
There is also a new richness to the music, evident in the Celtic elements on the banjo-laden bluegrass of "Sometimes in This Country" and the heart-wrenching emotions wrung from both instruments and vocals in "Half of What We Know."
-- Nancy Dunham, Weekend (May 2010)