Chicago-based artist Nora O’Connor brings her first solo album since 2004 with My Heart on Pravda Records. Released on October 7, this is a fine collection of vignettes and reflections on a life lived well, including the rough water necessary to make what we’d call a “good sailor.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Nora for a recent New Music Now episode for Ink 19. She is eloquent and gracious, letting us into her songwriting journey as well as her listening preferences.
The album opens with “Sore,” a light country-ish feel that will tell you what’s coming if you listen to the lyrics. This isn’t a sugar-coat. She’s getting personal without making you feel left out. The title track, “My Heart,” begins with a commanding yet simple piano intro that is perfect for the rest of the song. O’Connor shows her big range here as a vocalist too, which is why she might be recognizable from her touring period with Iron & Wine about ten years ago.
There’s wry humor in “Tarot Card,” bringing imagery we are all familiar with — digging through sofa or car seat upholstery for change, but perhaps not coming up with the romantic fatalist-style jigsaw puzzle that O’Connor did. As she sings of lessons learned amid the “naked body parts,” there is also the resolve to continue what feels good: “more of that, please.”
A short and sweet instrumental interlude in “Winwoof” is a bit of a throwback to early ’70s country rock or even Uncle Tupelo vibes. It’s a great place for a breather from the written verses, before rounding out the album with my personal favorite, “Outta Space,” and the appropriate “Fare Thee Well.” On both tracks, I’m reminded of the insightful writing and empowered-through-experience vocals of Allison Moorer and Aimee Mann. That’s some decent company!
There is so much honesty here. The metaphors give us a safe place to park our own memories while anchoring to optimism before moving forward. “Toss me an anchor, I can give you more.” I hope she won’t wait so long before treating us to another solo effort. Yes. More of this, please.