Maz O’Connor: Chosen Daughter review – fine, female-focused folk

(Restless Head/Hudson)

Since she arrived as a young Cumbrian folkie recycling the canon, Maz O’Connor has transformed into a highly individual singer-songwriter, whose vocals have acquired a swooping freedom reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, and whose subjects shade from modern romance to historical and literary figures – Lady Jane Grey on her last album, Shakespeare’s Cordelia on this fourth outing. Chosen Daughter is her most ambitious album to date, its songs deftly embellished by the string arrangements of Kate St John, its themes informed by a strongly feminine perspective. Party Girl, In the Morning and Invincible all address the self-destructive behaviour of young women who don’t want men to see them as “difficult”.

The heart of the record lies further back, in the iniquities inflicted on her Irish grandmothers: abuse in domestic service, forcible adoption and, in the case of a great aunt, emigration to the US as a nun in return for the welfare of her sisters, an episode captured on San Francisco. O’Connor handles her themes with aplomb, but bolder melodies and choruses – the stuff that has helped sustain both tradition and la Joni – would come in handy.

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Maz O’Connor: Chosen Daughter review – fine, female-focused folk