Aoife O'Donovan - The Slaughtered Lamb, London
As a gig goer you spend so much time at the back of a massive arena or crushed in a sweaty O2 Academy that you sometimes forget how intimate the live music experience can actually be. Aoife O’Donovan's debut UK show, held in the small basement room of The Slaughtered Lamb was a reminder of that different, more personal kind of performance. After hearing positive things about her debut album I was looking forward to seeing the “newest darling of the Americana set” for myself.
The great thing about these smaller gigs is that you invariably spot the star of the show wandering about in the audience before they take the stage, and O’Donovan was in the crowd talking to what turned out to be her family (and by stage I mean the floor at the front of the room). You can tell everything you need to know about the venue by her likening the gig to a “slumber party”.
Despite landing from New York only 12 hours previous, O’Donovan is chatty and likeable throughout, with anecdotes about playing music and drinking whiskey with a cajun bluegrass band until nine in the morning at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, then getting ready to play on the main stage two hours later. Or how she got an IOU from the London bus for not having the right change, and how her family are all great singers and are making her more nervous than normal. She needn’t have worried though. Right from the first song, 'Trouble All About My Soul', her voice is immaculate. On ‘Red & White & Blue & Gold’ she moves effortlessly from soft whispers to her full voice and back, showing fantastic range. Stood with just her guitar she strikes an elfin figure at the front of the hushed room, mixing songs like the sad ‘Briar Rose’ and uplifting ballad ‘Lakes of Ponchatrain’ with the cajun bluegrass of Crooked Still track ‘Red Stick Blues’, off kilter folk-pop of ‘Beekeeper’, and baleful lament on being born as ‘Thursday’s Child’.
Finishing by dragging the reserved London audience out of their Monday night blues with a sing-a-long to ‘Oh, Mama’, it’s quite a sight to see a room full of work weary Londoners harmonising the chorus (“Oh, Mama / Sing me a love song / Pour me some bourbon / And lay me down low”). What a great way to end a wonderful evening of faultless Americana.