You could be forgiven for thinking that one could grow weary of hearing the same classic tunes again and again; and yet from the first few bars of South Australia Maz O’Connor introduces us to a commanding voice, demanding of your attention irrespective of the song and indeed hers is a stunning rendition.
The key to the success of her debut album Upon a Stranger Shore isn’t simply her deeply striking sea-faring vocals, but the unique patchwork that she has created that runs throughout the album like an ocean map. Not simply a case of using the likes of South Australia and Leaving of Liverpool on the album itself; but by interspersing these classics with her own meaningful songs such as the cheerful travelling tune of Rambling Free she gives her work more power, allowing it to nestle in the midst of the greats.
She enhances her work further with her propensity to create unique combinations of pre-existing songs and her own songs. Red Red Rose combines the traditional tune of The New Irish Girl with her own verse while the likes of Stormalong melds two sea shanties into one another, creating an exceptional and addictive take on them both. Her tasteful mixtures are improved with an accompanying host of nautical instruments, leaving the listener as likely to be in a cabin on a tumultuous sea as in the comfort of their own living room.
Despites the captivating music that dances around her songs, it is with Constant Lovers that O’Connor is really able to captivate her audience with her talent. Singing completely solo, she displays a singular beauty in her voice that’s rivalled by few as she sheds the need for the intertwining melodies that she carries through the rest of the album. That is not to say that these other tracks are overly busy or complicated in their instrumental collection, indeed the toe-tapping Caw the Yowes might be the best track on the album. It is simply that Constant Lovers allows the quiet calm necessary to truly appreciate the range of her voice.
Upon a Stranger Shore takes a unique collection of sea shanties and folk songs and combines them with O’Connor’s captivating and comforting voice to create a distinctive album with an old fashioned-modern feeling. It is an astounding first album that is a long way from being her last.
For more information on Maz, please visit her website http://www.mazoconnor.com/
Review by Joe Knipe