Picks and Pans Review: Stories

updated 10/02/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/02/1995 01:00AM

Maura O'Connell

A native of western Ireland who found her way to Nashville in the mid-'80s, this talented contralto sings pop music one might call neo-folk (or chamber country) that is rooted in American and British folk tradition, but with the rough edges sanded off. It may use old-fashioned acoustic instruments, but they're meticulously arranged—and the whole is recorded with a high-gloss sheen. O'Connell addresses her material with a cabaret singer's attention to nuance. Stories doesn't quite lapse into the synthed-out blandness of Enya's "New-Age Celtic" sound, but it comes perilously close; it's got an embalmed feeling. In concert, O'Connell is a fiery, passionate singer; on Stories she sounds as if she's practicing her elocution. She and producer Jerry Douglas should have sacrificed diction for soul—O'Connell has got plenty of it. (Hannibal/Rykodisc)

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