Music: An ode to the human voice | The Optimist Daily
Today’s Solutions: July 16, 2024

Ton Maas | April/May 2010 issue
Why don’t you play an instrument? Why don’t you write your own songs?â? Singer Maura Oâ??Connell has been asked the same questions dozens of times. â??Because Iâ??m just a singer,â? was her standard reply. But it didnâ??t sit right with her. Why be ashamed of being â??justâ? a singer? To counter all possible prejudice concerning her vocal abilities, Oâ??Connell decided to record an album featuring nothing but the human voice. And since one voice is rather sparse for a whole album, she asked a number of musical friends to assist her in this adventurous undertaking.
The result is wonderful. Naked With Friends is one jubilant ode to the human voice. Though Oâ??Connellâ??s impressive vocals may be the CDâ??s centerpiece, her guests are quite famous in their own right. Apart from country diva Dolly Parton and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss, some of Irelandâ??s leading ladies of folk are present, including Moya Brennan and Mary Black. Together with Irish singer-songwriter Paul Brady, Oâ??Connell performs a stunning duet sung in Gaelic. But the most remarkable voice belongs to Jerry Douglas, a world-famous virtuoso on the dobro (resonator slide guitar) who has never before been caught singing in public.
The repertoire selected for Naked is largely traditional, which makes sense given that most folk music used to be performed without instrumental backing. But thanks to inventive vocal arrangements, songs by contemporary artists such as Cheryl Wheeler and Janis Ian sound as if they were meant to be sung precisely like this. A chilling interpretation of Joan Armatradingâ??s â??Weakness In Me,â? performed by Oâ??Connell in her most naked of voices, wonderfully demonstrates the closeness of the connection between emotion and voice. Breathtakingly beautiful.

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