The Irish folk singer’s third album fills out her sound to incorporate elements of jazz, country rock, slowcore, and psychedelia.
Brigid Mae Power’s music never quite settles on solid ground. The Irish singer-songwriter flits between past and present; between traditional and modern forms; between the heaven in her voice and the earthbound epiphanies of her words. Her last album was called The Two Worlds. I’d say she inhabits a few more than that.
Power emerged from Galway’s bohemian scene, experimenting with the parameters of traditional music in unlit car parks and remote churches. Until now, the echo of open spaces has been a defining feature of her music, her intimate songs bolstered by cavernous reverb and drone. Those textures are less prominent on her third album. Recorded in Glasgow in three days with a band assembled by Scottish contemporary folkie Alasdair Roberts, who co-produced alongside Power and her husband Peter Broderick, Head Above the Water fills out her sound with a broader sweep of instrumentation. There is room for the bodhran, fiddle, and bouzouki, but also the synthesizer, Shruti box, drums, and electric guitar. Roberts encourages a more adventurous spirit to enter the proceedings. Though still rooted in folk—there’s a stunning cover of the traditional ballad “The Blacksmith”—the 10 songs blend elements of jazz, country rock, slowcore, and psychedelia.
Occasionally, the music has real bite, as on the snaking, sinister “I Was Named After You.” More typically, the songs amble dreamily toward their destination, as though following an ancient map on which the coordinates have begun to fade. On “Wedding of a Friend” and “You Have a Quiet Power,” buffeted by cross breezes of pedal steel and Mellotron, Power sounds like she’s fronting a slightly woollier Mazzy Star. “On a City Night” recalls the giddy joie de vivre of some of the lighter moments on Bob Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes.