From the stage of The Egg’s intimate Swyer Theater, songstress Maura O’Connell explained in an almost apologetic tone to the audience that if this double bill with the great Irish troubadour Paul Brady were happening anywhere in Ireland, Europe or the rest of the world, he would have been the headliner. But because this is America, and she is better known here, she assumed the role this time around.
Regardless who went on first or who was the headliner, both these masters of song are stars within the Irish and contemporary music worlds. Both have roots firmly planted in the Irish music tradition, and both have branched out through the years to embrace a wide-range of contemporary styles including folk, country, bluegrass, rhythm & blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.
Wearing a broad smile, Brady took the stage in classic singer-songwriter style, an acoustic guitar in hand. Delivering witty, humorous anecdotes between songs, he performed a delightful smorgasbord of original tunes garnered from a musical career that’s spanned more than 40 years.
Maura O’Connell is no stranger to Nippertown audiences, having performed here consistently through the past two decades on many of the region’s stages – from the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs to the Music Haven in Schenectady. The Irish songbird is a marvelous interpreter of songs – not a songwriter – who possesses an uncanny talent for finding just the right songs to match her rich and powerful voice.
It’s interesting to note in the context of the evening’s double bill that Paul Brady’s song “Helpless Heart” – the title track from O’Connell’s sophomore album – has become her signature song and an audience favorite throughout her performing career.
Flanked on stage by acoustic guitarist John Mock and electric bassist Don Johnson, O’Connell effortlessly wooed the audience with a mix of country and folk songs, albeit sung with an Irish accent, of course!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk