Things I Gave Away [Audio CD] O'Brien, Mollie

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Though best known for her folk, Celtic, and bluegrass collaborations with her brother, Tim, Mollie O'Brien surprised fans and critics with her 1998 solo album, Big Red Sun, on which she offered blues and jazz-pop interpretations of Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, and Steve Goodman. Now on Things I Gave Away, produced by guitarist Nina Gerber, O'Brien wades deeper into minimalistic jazz and art-form atmospherics, with more refined, yet elastic interpretations of standards and newer songs alike. If she doesn't quite innervate the Beatles' "You Won't See Me," she makes Percy Mayfield's "River's Invitation" the most artful call to suicide you'll ever hear, and in exploring "Love, Life and Money," pushes both the melody and the torchy emotion into territory that neither Little Willie John or Johnny Winter ever considered. But her finest moment comes in the confessions of a scared lover, "Practicing Walking Away," on which O'Brien delivers a shimmering, sad performance. This stylistic return to O'Brien's formative years of performing in nightclubs probably only hints at recordings to come. What sweet misery that is! --Alanna Nash