Headliner :: Aoife O’Donovan
Opener :: The Wildmans
Reflection, remembrances, and self-reckoning combine on Aoife O'Donovan's third solo album, where her gift for tantalizing poetry is woven into a soundscape more rich and vivid than any she's created before. Age of Apathy is an album that traces a journey through grown-up life and ponders the question facing both singer and listener alike: what do you want from yourself?
The 11 tracks on this record came together in an extraordinarily fertile few months, sparked by O'Donovan's move out of New York in September 2020. Transplanted to the lush forests of central Florida, O'Donovan found something she'd never known before: the time and space to craft an album away from a packed performing schedule and the rigors of the road.
For someone who admits that writing can be a struggle, the process was electrifying. "I felt I'd entered into a creative period unlike anything else I'd ever done," says O'Donovan. It's impossible to feel the groove of "Phoenix" -- a celebration of her muse's return -- or hear the cosmic uplift of the album-closer, "Passengers," without absorbing her own joy-filled experience.
She is, however, aware of the irony. After all, this burst of creativity emerged from -- and often charts -- the malaise that dogged her at the start of the pandemic, and which had its origins long before. In the album's title song, "Age of Apathy," O'Donovan references the moment she (along with so many of her generation) felt her adulthood begin: on September 11, 2001. Instead of dwelling on an individual tragedy, she draws her emotion from the two decades that followed: an onslaught of information from the digital age, a cultural environment that can leave us both overwhelmed and inert. "I let go around 2009," she sings, "lost the feeling in my hands."
From its hypnotic opener, "Sister Starling," this album unfolds like a lifetime journey, following a breadcrumb trail of memories from youth to middle age. It's a recognition of our frustrations and frailties, the implacable receding of our own past, and a sometimes anxious interrogation of the future: "Where is what's good here, and what are we going to make of America?" asks the singer amid the insistent, rising cry of the album's turning point, "Elevators." In its wake, "Prodigal Daughter," "Galahad" and "Town of Mercy" recognize the need to reconcile ourselves to our own flawed humanity, and in "Passengers," O'Donovan ends with a soaring determination to accept and embrace the orbital path we're on.
The Wildmans come from the hills of Floyd, Virginia, in the heart of the Appalachian mountain music tradition. From campsite jamming at festivals and fiddler's conventions and a college level music education comes the foundation for musical exploration that sets this group apart, taking the audience on a musical journey that reflects the growth and passion of these talented musicians.
The band features award winning players: Eli Wildman (first place winner in mandolin at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, 2018 and 2019, first place winner at the Mount Airy Fiddler’s 2017, 2018, 2019), Aila Wildman (first place winner in Old Time Fiddle and Best All Around Performer at the 83rd annual Galax Old Fiddlers convention in 2018), and Victor Furtado (winner of the 2019 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, and first place Old Time Banjo at Galax 2015, 2016 and 2019).
The group has appeared on stages large and small, performing in festivals such as Red Wing Roots, Chantilly Farm's Bluegrass and BBQ festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass, Floyd Fest, and The Steep Canyon Rangers’ Mountain Song Festival. They also regularly represent young talent along the Crooked Road in regional fiddler’s conventions. Having shared the stage with talents such as Bela Fleck, The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Steel Wheels, Danny Knicely, Sammy Shelor, Sierra Hull, Billy Strings, and more., these young musicians are making their way in the American stringband scene.