Brigid Mae Power is an Irish visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and folk singer born in London and based in Galway since the age of 12. She first met singer songwriter and composer Peter Broderick while playing support for him during a short tour of Ireland and the UK in 2015. The latter subsequently invited her to record new songs in his home studio (The Sparkle – Woods, Oregon). Following on from a series of self-released songs on Bandcamp and a self-recorded solo album in 2014, the musician released her first studio produced and self-titled record (Digital, CD & Vinyl) for San Francisco-based independent record label Tompkins Square on 10th June 2016 last.

Brigid Mae Power (2016) - Artwork © Brigid Mae Power
Brigid Mae Power (2016) – Artwork © Brigid Mae Power

Instinctively drawn towards reverberation, Brigid Mae Power has recorded all her previous work in spaces that provide a natural echo – an underground car park or her bathroom. The entire I Told You The Truth album (2014) was recorded by the singer herself in St Nicholas Church in the heart of Galway city. Wonderfully produced, Brigid Mae Power’s self-titled album magically recreates in the studio this much loved reverberant sound with slow-paced guitar or piano-led ballads, harmonium, percussion and occasional layers of strings or electronics.

Influenced by The Beatles, Tim Buckley, Neil Young or American guitarist John Fahey, Brigid Mae Power’s singing also evokes the British and American experimental psych-folk era of the 1960s. Accompanying many of her songs with minimal instrumentation, the singer flirts at times with oriental music. With most of her songs doing away with the traditional verse/chorus/verse format, the singer uses her voice as an additional instrument in a style that brings her close to free jazz or the jazz-inflected singing of Joni Mitchell for instance. She herself quotes the music of Charles Mingus or Duke Ellington as having a major impact on her musical vision.

All these elements lend a unique individuality to her approach, but there is something else too, an almost “ancient” quality that introduces a quasi-mystical component to her expression. In that regards, Brigid Mae Power is chanting more than she is singing, even though none of her lyrics touch on the religious.

Ethereal and enchanting throughout, her melismatic vocals conjure up the traditional Irish sean-nós-influenced style of singing as well as modern recordings of 12th century Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen’s spiritual compositions at times.

Stretching over seven minutes, accompanied by tambourine, simple guitar strumming and introduced by wordless chanting, “It’s Clearing Now” almost starts and progresses like an Indian raga. Sustained by harmonium and with harmonies by Peter Broderick, “Let Me Hold You Through This” evokes the religious choir music of the Renaissance. “Sometimes”, another eerie piano-led ballad, was covered by Peter Broderick on his 2017 Partners release.

I left myself for a while, for a while, for a while
I do that sometimes, it’s an old habit of mine, to get by […]

I’ll leave myself again I’m sure
But I know how to get back
I’ll embrace both sides
One that wants to fly
And the one that wants to stay at base

Underpinned by waves of strings and electronics, “I Left Myself For A While” is an otherworldly song, both in its execution and theme.

My romantic mind
It is always trying to decide
Oh many, many times, to force happiness
I have tried but I had to be patient
In waiting for it’s movement

But it’s clearing, clearing now

Dealing with the difficulties of single motherhood and personal traumas of the past, Brigid Mae Power seems to function as a healing process for the singer. Imbued with a serene atmosphere of acceptance, the songs indicate both a turning point and a transformation. “I am free” she sings on “Watching The Horses”.

The Ones You Keep Close

Released on 15th April 2017 last as a 12’’ vinyl, cassette and digital album on the Oscarson label, The Ones You Keep Close introduces new versions of older songs, all recorded and mastered at The Sparkle, Peter Broderick’s home studio in Oregon.

Brigid Mae Power - The Ones You Keep Close (2017)
Brigid Mae Power – The Ones You Keep Close (2017)

The line-up still includes Peter Broderick on drums, violin, guitar, keyboards and vocals but expands to David Allred (upright bass, trumpet) and Selah Broderick (flute).

The addition of a drum kit this time brings a new jazz amplitude to the songs, and the flute on “I Don’t Know How To Do This Naturally” beautifully conveys the spirit of Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower-era West Coast jazz of the late 1960s.