Maura O'Connell

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Maura O'Connell
O'Connell performing in 2006
Background information
Native name
Máire Uí Chonaill
Born (1958-09-16) 16 September 1958 (age 60)
Ennis, County Clare, Ireland
Genres Folk
Years active1980–present

Maura O'Connell (born 16 September 1958) is an Irish singer and actress. She is known for her contemporary interpretations of Irish folk songs, strongly influenced by American country music. [1]

Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as folk music and blues.



O'Connell was born in Ennis, the main town in County Clare, in the west of Ireland. Born into a musical family, O'Connell was the third of four sisters. Her mother's family owned Costello's fish shop in Ennis where O'Connell worked until music became her full-time career. She grew up listening to her mother's light opera, opera, and parlor song records. [2] Her father's interest leaned towards the rebel ballads. Despite the presence of classical music in the house, O'Connell got very involved in the local folk club scene and together with Mike Hanrahan, who later fronted trad/rock outfit Stockton's Wing, they performed a country music set, as a duo called 'Tumbleweed'.

Ennis Town in Munster, Ireland

Ennis is the county town of County Clare, Ireland. The Irish name is short for Inis Cluana Rámhfhada. The town is on the River Fergus, north of where it enters the Shannon Estuary, 19 km (12 mi) from Shannon Airport. In 2016, Ennis had a population of 25,276, making it the largest town in Clare and the 12th largest in Ireland.

County Clare County in the Republic of Ireland

County Clare is a county in Ireland, in the Mid-West Region and the province of Munster, bordered on the West by the Atlantic Ocean. There is debate whether it should be historically considered a part of Connacht. Clare County Council is the local authority. The county had a population of 118,817 at the 2016 census. The county town and largest settlement is Ennis.

Mike Hanrahan

Mike Hanrahan is a singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Ennis, County Clare, in September 1958.

O'Connell attended St Joseph's Secondary School in Spanish Point from 1971 to 1974, where she took part in the school choir. She was also part of the "Cúl Aodha Choir", led by Peader Ó Riada, that sang at the funeral of Willie Clancy in 1973. [2]

Spanish Point, County Clare Village in Munster, Ireland

Spanish Point is a village in the parish of Milltown Malbay in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. It has many holiday homes, and in winter a significantly smaller population. It is also one of the better surf breaks in County Clare. The name refers to the wrecking of some ships of the Spanish Armada off the coast.

Willie Clancy (musician) Irish musician

Willie Clancy was an Irish uilleann piper, flute player and whistle player.

Musical career

Solo career

O'Connell began her professional musical journey during a six-week tour of the US in 1980, as vocalist for the traditionally-based Celtic group De Dannan. The following year, she was featured on the band's landmark album, The Star Spangled Molly, (where she has the lead vocals on four tracks) which became something of a national phenomenon in her homeland. [2] However, not long after joining the group she became very interested in the experimental roots music of America's New Grass Revival when the bands' paths crossed, and moved to the US in 1986, settling in Nashville, Tennessee. There she met newgrass pioneers Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, with whom she'd work on most of her records.

De Dannan band

De Dannan is an Irish folk music group. It was formed by Frankie Gavin (fiddle), Alec Finn, Johnny "Ringo" McDonagh (bodhrán) and Charlie Piggott (banjo) as a result of sessions in Hughes's Pub in An Spidéal, County Galway, with Dolores Keane (vocals) subsequently being invited to join the band. The fiddler Mickey Finn (1951–1987) is also acknowledged to have been a founder member.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

New Grass Revival American progressive bluegrass band

New Grass Revival was an American progressive bluegrass band founded in 1971, and composed of Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, John Cowan, Béla Fleck and Pat Flynn. They were active between 1971 and 1989, releasing more than twenty albums as well as six singles. Their highest-charting single is "Callin' Baton Rouge", which peaked at No. 37 on the U.S. country charts in 1989 and was a Top 5 country hit for Garth Brooks five years later.

She recorded her first solo album in 1983, however, it didn't make any impact in Ireland or in the United States. O'Connell received a Grammy nomination for her 1989 album, Helpless Heart (originally released in Ireland in 1987 as Western Highway), which was her first record released under Warner Bros. Records. Real Life Story (1990), and Blue is the Colour of Hope (1992), registered a move toward a pop synthesis. O'Connell's versions of "Living in These Troubled Times" and Cheryl Wheeler's "Summerfly" became standout tracks on the 1993 album A Woman's Heart, on four all-female overseas tours and on the 1994 follow-up album in her homeland. A Woman's Heart Vol. 2 features her heartfelt renditions of Nanci Griffith's "Trouble in the Fields" and Gerry O'Beirne's "Western Highway." After numerous album heavily inspired by American newgrass music, O'Connell returned to her Irish roots with the 1997 release, Wandering Home.

Warner Bros. Records American record label

Warner Bros. Records Inc. is an American record label owned by Warner Music Group and headquartered in Burbank, California. It was founded in 1958 as the recorded music division of the American film studio Warner Bros., and was one of a group of labels owned and operated by larger parent corporations for much of its existence. The sequence of companies that controlled Warner Bros. and its allied labels evolved through a convoluted series of corporate mergers and acquisitions from the early 1960s to the early 2000s. Over this period, Warner Bros. Records grew from a struggling minor player in the music industry to one of the top record labels in the world.

Cheryl Wheeler female folk singer and songwriter from the USA

Cheryl Wheeler is an American singer-songwriter of contemporary folk music, based in New England. To date, she has recorded thirteen folk albums, and has toured extensively throughout the United States. Wheeler was born in Timonium, Maryland, where she attended Dulaney High School. She performed at clubs in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area. She moved to Rhode Island in 1976, where she played at various clubs in the New England area. Jonathan Edwards asked her to tour with him when his bass player became unavailable. He has since produced a number of her albums. Wheeler and her partner, Cathleen, were married in 2004.

<i>A Womans Heart</i> (compilation album) 1992 compilation album by various

A Woman's Heart is a compilation of twelve tracks performed by six female Irish artists, namely Eleanor McEvoy, Mary Black, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Frances Black, and Maura O'Connell. The album was released in July 1992 and sold over 750,000 copies, more than any other album in Irish chart history.

As the new millennium approached, O'Connell signed with the Sugar Hill label in late 2000 and began working on her seventh album. Instead of working with her longtime producer Jerry Douglas, O'Connell had Ray Kennedy (who worked with Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams) produce Walls and Windows, which was released in 2001, and featured an eclectic collection of songs, including work by Kim Richey, Van Morrison, John Prine, Eric Clapton and Patty Griffin. Her 2004 album, Don't I Know, contained musical textures added by everything from fiddles, to clavinets, to lap steel and B-3 organ. [3]

Ray Kennedy is an American country music artist. He has recorded two albums for Atlantic Records. His two Atlantic albums produced a total of four singles on the Hot Country Songs charts, with 1991's "What a Way to Go" being his only top 40 country hit, peaking at No. 10.

Steve Earle singer-songwriter, recording artist and producer

Stephen Fain Earle is an American rock, country and folk singer-songwriter, record producer, author and actor. Earle began his career as a songwriter in Nashville and released his first EP in 1982.

Lucinda Williams American rock, folk, blues, and country music singer, songwriter and musician

Lucinda Williams is an American rock, folk, blues, and country music singer, songwriter and musician.

The 2009 album, Naked With Friends, is Maura’s first a cappella album. Guest vocalists include Mary Black, Paul Brady, Moya Brennan, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tim O'Brien, Dolly Parton, Sarah Dugas, Kate Rusby and Darrell Scott. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award. [4]

In 2013 O'Connell announced the end of her solo career. [5] [6]

Other work

In addition to her solo work, O'Connell has collaborated with a number of Celtic, folk, pop and country artists, including Van Morrison, Brian Kennedy, Moya Brennan, Mary Black, John Prine, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien, John Gorka, Bela Fleck, Robert Earl Keen, Dolly Parton and Shawn Colvin. She has also sung background vocals for a number of artists, including Van Morrison's 1988 project with the Chieftains, Irish Heartbeat and Stockton's Wing on Take A Chance.


Aside from the music world, Martin Scorsese cast O'Connell, scruffed up for the role, as an Irish migrant street singer in his 19th-century epic The Gangs of New York , released in 2002. [2]


Solo albums


As primary artist/contributor

Also appears on

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  1. "Maura O'Connell — Free listening, videos, concerts, stats and photos at". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Anne, Jones. Salty faces & Ferocious Appetites; A Tapestry of Stories from a Seaside School. Spanish Point, County Clare: St. Joseph's Secondary School. pp. 21–25. ISBN   978-0-9564548-2-9.