Review from The BUg and Indigiscapes
By Mary Brettel
There’s something about Maureen O’Brien’s songs and presentation style which reaches out and grabs an audience … and does not let go. And we don’t want to lose that connection.
Maureen’s two recent gigs in Brisbane at The BUg (Brisbane Un-Plugged at the Muddy Farmer Hotel) and at Folk Redlands were certainly no exception to this.
On the Thursday night at the BUg members of the other guest band for the night, Fiddlesticks, were so inspired by her performance that they ended up on the stage with Maureen. Karen Jackson jumped up and accompanied her on the djembe and young fiddle ‘virtuoso’ George Jackson leapt to the challenge and joined in with his impromptu amazing jazz-style accompaniment.
Folk Redlands was an unexpected treat for the audience at Indigiscapes and left the crowd calling for more and eagerly anticipating Maureen’s next visit to the Brisbane area where we hope she will be booked as a special guest performer so we can have her on stage for a longer time and hear more of her wonderful songs.
Review from Kookaburra Cafe 28/10/09
By Anne Infante
We were delighted to welcome Newcastle singer/songwriter Maureen O’Brien back to the Kookaburra Folk Club on the 28th October. What a lovely performer she is – her voice is warm and intimate and she stylishly delivered her original songs, a mix of jazz/blues/folk and sheer comedy, to her enthusiastic audience, interspersed with a wealth of delightfully humorous observations from her own life experience. Whenever Maureen performs, she appears to be simply hanging out and having fun with her friends, which is an enviable gift. Her songs come from her heart, but often with a twinkle, as she confidently embraces issues that matter to her, whether comic or deadly serious, and that are guaranteed to strike a chord in her listeners. The many awards and successes her albums enjoy testify to her outstanding talent. Come back soon, Maureen.
Review of Live & Original at Diggers on 21/11/08
By Ben Roberts
Anyone who gives up the luxuries of full time, stable and comfortable corporate income to endure a life of poverty, all in the name of music, art and culture immediately gains my support.
Maureen, a sparkling, vibrant and colourful being walks on to the stage with attitude, confidence and conviction, demanding the attention of her audience and clearly stopping conversations mid-sentence. Maureen's powerful delivery of poetic, cheeky, descriptive and somewhat charming story telling leaves the audience pondering and talking all the way back to their office Monday morning.
Maureen takes you on a journey through her life, the people she meets, the lovers she doesn't quite time, the grandchildren she can give back, her dealings with the money hungry scavengers that disrupt the economic balance and of course the mischief and fun she endures along the way.
Maureen has a rare ability to captivate, entertain and enlighten her audience, forcing her audience to look outside the square they live in, LOVE every chance they can, seize every opportunity, inspiring her audience to ask for and strive for more in their life. Maureen's song-craft, musicianship, instrumentation, comedy and sound is of the highest standard and her versatility and many arrangements make her an asset to an immense list of venues, events, parties and festivals.
Maureen will make you smile, laugh, cry and even dance. Maureen's 10 years of industry experience speaks volumes and to my knowledge not too many grandmothers can gain the undivided attention of teenagers, audiences in their 20's, 30's, 40's and above and do it with style. A unique, entertaining and soulful account of Jazz that is not Blues, that is not Folk, but draws influence from all of the above. An act not to be missed! (Ben Roberts of Live and Original, 20/01/2009).
Review From St Albans Festival 2008
By Bill Quinn
A workshop highlight for me was Maureen O'Brien's 'Borderless', an hour of songs and stories from Maureen and friends about the experiences of women in the diaspora from Ireland, both convict and 'free settlers', the latter group not always finding themselves so free. Very informative and illuminating. http://www.snalbans.iwarp.com/reviews2008.html
Review of Borderless album by Don Bannister, Trad & Now Magazine, March 2008.
The title "Borderless" suggests Maureen’s inability or refusal to be boxed into a musical genre. Inability or refusal as in a butterfly in a box, once boxed its true value is lost.
The combination of Maureen’s singing, and Robbie Long's brilliant guitar work evokes the feeling of a free-floating spirit flitting from musical note to musical note, sometimes a butterfly, sometimes a hummingbird.
Maureen’s lyrics maintain a folk tradition, in that the stories depict historic and family and life.
"Patchwork" does this by relating the skills of actual quilt making with the intricacies of life and family and how they are all interwoven, that neither a singular piece of cloth, or an individual's life/story can really exist without all the other pieces of cloth, or without family and community interactions.
"The Ballad of Miss Pitty" tells of a female convict's miserable young life and is set to a sad tango.
"Rockin’ the Boat" (please see opening statement) tells of Maureen’s(?) rebellious Irish side and is set to a rocked up jazzy tune. Excellent electric guitar playing by Robbie Long here.
"Shoulder to Shoulder" is about the blessings and strength found in a mother daughter relationship and is set to a contemporary upbeat tune.
"Skye Boat Song" is perhaps one of the greatest of all trad Scot songs, set here to a contemporary uptempo jazzy tune. Atrocious, and not one bagpipe to be heard. Harrumph. I feel sure that Maureen will be able to come up with a Jazz bagpipe player at some stage. But still sung and played beautifully.
Congrats on a fine album Maureen.
Guest Speaker, Women's Group
I would like to thank you very much indeed for your visit to The Petroleum Women of Perth. Your talk was enlightening, entertaining and very inspirational. Many members have commented to me how much they enjoyed the warmth and humour of your speech and the music that accompanied it. I have no hesitation in strongly recommending you as a speaker/entertainer of particular interest to women.
Karen Hassan, President
Petroleum Women of Perth
"...an extraordinary leap in her development as a writer. The production is top class and the music is absolutely distinctive, fresh, refreshing. Keep an eye on this woman ... she’s definitely going places."
"'Luminous', the follow-up album to 'Many Shades of Blue' really highlights Maureen's ability to traverse the genres. Songs on 'Luminous' range from the very sensual to the tongue in cheek humour of 'Big A Attitude' and much more. Maureen's vocals truly shine in every song throughout 'Luminous'. I would recommend 'Luminous' to anyone looking for an Australia release with light jazz influences to a slight touch of folk." Raymond Phillips, 97.1FM, Kilmore, VIC
"More than just a collection of eleven tracks, Maureen's new album Luminous is a fun, passionate and, sometimes, a brutally honest experience. For only the second time in my life has one particular song come along at exactly the time it was needed and genuinely changed my outlook and life. Maureen rocks!" Luke Gow
"Maureen is a singer who really knows how to sing a song and put her heart, soul and thoughts into the music. This CD is a credit to her, it's smooth, classy and full of Maureen's very own style. The instrumentals are also fabulous. Congratulations on a job well done - everyone who loves good music should get a copy of this CD." Wendy Rudin, 92.3 Spirit FM, Narrandera
"A truly luminous woman! With a youthfulness to her voice that seems to grow with every album, Maureen delivers a listening experience that takes you on an aural journey through her life's experiences. Maureen's honesty, wit and seductive traits are present and proud in each of her well-penned songs. The musicianship and production of this album is a credit to all involved. Well done! Enjoy your light Maureen, and thankyou for sharing it!" Lenore Bower, Singer/Songwriter
Luminous Launch Feedback
Fans who attended the launch of Luminous on 31 January 2007 were thrilled with the night.
- The launch was bloody fantastic! I'm so sorry my friends missed it. Gina, Maus Fan #1
- Hi Maureen, enjoyed your CD launch. Your musicians were superb, your songs were inspired and your vocals were lively, engaging and melodious. Regards, David Baker.
- Hello Maureen. We had a great night! All the entertainment was good, the food delicious, and your performance was power-packed! You really are special! Thank you for inviting me, Love Libby.
- Hi Maureen, thanks heaps for great music last night. I really enjoyed your new
stuff, drew me in completely. The boys from Bris were also amazing, very tight and the arrangements sounded brilliant. My favourite song was the love song - beautiful! The whole night was fantastic, support sets, company, wine, supper, and you. Thanks, love Mary.
- Dear Maureen, Congratulations on your well organised album launch. Kind regards, Brian.
Maureen O’Brien is a fantastic songwriter and singer and her performance at the Club night just reinforced this for me. Not only do her songs have wonderfully funny and poignant lyrics but they are presented in a bluesy fashion and sound great, too. Maureen’s wonderful sense of humour and irony in writing songs about women maturing just hits the spot for me, particularly Wild Women Blues. I felt that Maureen’s professional presentation and musicianship enabled her performance to be appreciated by everyone in the audience. Shona Lee, Newcastle Folk Club
Orphans of Uganda Concert, 11 December 2005
Thanks so much for your wonderful performance and gift of CDs. We raised approx. $1,700 DOLLARS - FANTASTIC!!!! We all had a wonderful day and getting lots of good feedback. We couldn't have done it without you. THANK YOU THANK YOU. Sharon McLean (event organiser)
CD Reviews - Many Shades of Blue
Comments from listeners so far:
"This is my favourite album ... it makes me smile like no other."
"I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much ... it’s the story of my life!"
"Every song has a story ... I shed a tear here and laughed out loud there."
"I just loved these lyrics ... she has a real gift with words."
Review of Many Shades of Blue by Russell Hannah, Illawarra Folk Club
It is not often that you can say that a new recording of original songs does not have a bad song in it. When you say this in the folk scene you are generally referring to a Judy Small or an Eric Bogle. Maureen O’Brien’s latest offering Many Shades of Blue, however, contains nine self-penned songs, all of them good but some of them better. It reveals Maureen, not only as a gifted singer with a rich bluesy voice but also as a very talented songwriter.
Maureen’s maturity as a songwriter is reflected in the subject matter of her songs. No introspective love songs here, no songs where the only one relating to the emotion of the song is the songwriter herself. Rather it’s social comment on the human condition, enunciated in a clear, unambiguous way.
Modern advertising’s obsession with the svelte feminine figure and the difficulty many mature women have with this is handled with a touch of humour in Fresh Air and Exercise and Big White Woman Blues. Grandmas, of which Maureen is one, are let off the leash with a spot of skinny dipping and dancing in Grandma Boogie, while the twitchers and bird lovers/haters are catered for in her love/hate relationship with those most enigmatic of our feathered friends, Magpies.To give the recording a more cutting edge, Mothers Lament is a cry of both sadness and rage against people who send our sons to kill or be killed in the name of ‘freedom’, while Blood on the Walk explores a mother’s feelings for a murdered son.We can all relate to the title track, Many Shades of Blue - sadness comes in many forms and shades; it is part of the human condition and, in a way, this sums up the theme of this recording.
The backing music could hardly be called traditional folk, comprising as it does saxophone, drums and guitar. It is more like a gentle jazz/blues genre. The lyrics, however, are strictly contemporary folk. Like all good folk lyrics, you must be able to understand the words and Maureen O’Brien has made certain that that is the case.
All in all, this is a very good CD and if you notice Maureen is performing at a venue near you, make sure you pop along to hear her.
Review of Many Shades CD by Libby Dickeson, 2NUR-FM radio.
Many Shades of Blue gives many shades of pleasure - from tears with a grieving mother in Blood on the Walk to loads of laughs at Grandma Boogie and Fresh Air and Exercise. Maureen's lyrics are personal yet recognised by all and are always entertaining. The CD has great backing from a terrific band and support vocalists. Well done!
Review of performance at St Alban's Folk Festival by Leila
She has a strong voice that can cover the styles and moods from "blue" blues all the way to rollicking fun songs ... the crowd around her was mesmerised. She really makes you feel like you have a connection with her and she is the farthest thing from standoffish, like some talented musicians tend to be. Maureen's performances always give you the feeling you have touched an earthy original part of the music world and should not be missed.
Comment about 'Many Shades of Blue' by listener
The song Many Shades of Blue is imprinted on my brain! It won't leave me alone - I'm addicted!
Review of singing workshop by Leila
Thank you so much for the wonderful workshop! Everyone enjoyed it so much and I have gotten a lot of good feedback about it. We really enjoyed your style of teaching and how well organised you had everything. Like to provide a review of an album, workshop or show? Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Maureen
"It's interesting that different people like different stuff off the album. Some people have loved the whole album from 'go'. Other people have needed a number of listens before they've discovered the intricacies in the different songs and then decided that something they didn't like at first has become a most powerful song for them. I find this 'listening' dynamic absolutely fascinating!"