Maura O'Connell

Friday, March 4; Sheldon Concert Hall (3648 Washington Boulevard)

Every time you hear Maura O'Connell is a revelation. That rich, supple alto soars across the bed of the music, hugging the melody tightly yet phrasing the words in rhythmically elastic ways.

O'Connell began her career as the best of a string of talented lead singers for Irish folk revivalists De Dannon. But her interests were not limited to folk music, so she headed across the pond and over the hills to Nashville, where she hooked up with the leading lights of the progressive bluegrass scene, the New Grass Revival.

O'Connell's first solo album, 1988's Just In Time, is still her finest moment. Producer Béla Fleck brought the cream of the Nashville crop to play on the record, including Dobro master Jerry Douglas (who has since produced several of O'Connell's albums), fiddler Mark O'Connor and vocalist Nanci Griffith. The songs recognized the links between Irish folk and American country and bluegrass. O'Connell's rendition of the Beatles' "I Will" is almost certainly the most beautiful version of this oft-covered standard.

Since that first shining solo effort, O'Connell has moved in a pop direction, without denying her roots. She remains a graceful interpreter in a variety of song styles.

Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 for orchestra, $40 for balcony; call 314-533-9900 for more information.

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