Reviews & Quotes


“An Incredible Singer and Fantastic Guitarist performing some of the Best Songs you’ll ever hear in one show…there’s the quote for the poster. Now, let me explain. Mollie O’Brien first performed on Mountain Stage in 1985, our second year. She was the best singer we had ever had on the show. She kept coming back and now, 27 years later, she’s still one of the top three best singers ever to perform on the show and I can’t think of the other two at the moment. Keep in mind, we have had over 1,800 guests on Mountain Stage. She can sing contemporary and traditional folk music, country, bluegrass, jazz, gospel, blues and pop but she’s not a jack of all trades. She’s a master of many styles. Since she and Rich have been performing together regularly – he finally quit his day job – they are impossible to beat as an acoustic duo. They have impeccable taste and choose the most entertaining, interesting and inspiring material from the wide world of song. And they’re funny. I urge you to see them if you get the chance and make your friends come with you (they will effusively thank you later).”
Larry Groce, Artistic Director and Host, Mountain Stage

“Sitting out in my little writing porch, watching the wrens build nests and listening to the enormous song that improbably comes out of their tiny bodies, and wondering why more people haven’t heard of the singer Mollie O’Brien. Full disclosure: we went to convent school together in Wheeling, West Virginia. But even if I didn’t know her I would be completely in thrall to her throaty, bluesy, beautiful voice and the way she delivers a song, as though she’s really living in it. There are a lot of people I listen to when I write: Sondheim, Adele, The Donnas, The Veronicas, Keith Urban. But she stops me and makes me attend, just like the house wrens do.”
Anna Quindlen, Author

“Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore are two national musical treasures. Combining blues and bluegrass (and everything in-between) with their soulful voices and stunning instrumental chops, Mollie and Rich are a constant source of joy and inspiration to me. They are truly among the best out there keeping American music alive and vital.”
Dave Alvin

“We do not have another singer like Mollie O’Brien – she stands and delivers in a completely original way – no matter the material. Together Mollie and Rich have made a sure and honest recording of Saturday nights and Sunday mornings that runs as deep as family.”
Darrell Scott

One part Maria Muldaur, one part Suzy Bogguss & one part Ella Fitzgerald, Mollie O’Brien’s voice with its seemingly limitless range is the perfect vehicle for this eclectic set of songs. Rich Moore’s crisp harmonies & guitar playing support in all the right places. It takes serious talent to play and sing this effortlessly.”
Gretchen Peters, Songwriter

“Heartfelt intelligence and unselfconsciously sophisticated.”
Rolling Stone

“O’Brien has one of the clearest, truest voices of our times. Her choice of material is nothing short of brilliant.”
Music Row

“If you want to know what singing is all about, listen to Mollie O’Brien.”
Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones

“Mollie O’Brien is one amazing chanter and there aren’t too many on the planet with her soul and grace. If you’re lucky to see live she’ll blow your heart up and put it back cleansed.”
Eddie Reader, Scottish Singer

“After 40 years as a music producer I thought I’d heard all the great singers and interpreters of songs. But after recently having the opportunity to record Mollie O’Brien in concert, I quickly realized that Mollie is arguably the greatest of them all.”
Glenn Meisner, Producer, CBC Maritimes

“Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore’s new album “Love Runner” is a keeper. As they say, “Mollie O’Brien could sing the phone book and you’d love it.” Fortunately, she and Rich along with producer Eric Thorin, have come up with a beautiful collection of songs which give Mollie a chance to show us all how wonderfully grounded and versatile she is as a singer. The musical settings provide a wide variety of moods, which perfectly complement her vocals. I have a feeling this will become one of those albums that comes with you in the car, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, the bedroom–you get the idea. It’s a keeper, and it will be with you for a long time to come.”
Jim Rooney, Legendary Record Producer

“The precision of her phrasing, the smooth flow of her delivery and the sheer beauty of her alto make her one of the best interpretive singers in American pop today.”
The Washington Post

Selections from Recent Reviews

Elmore Magazine Nov, 20, 2015
Another completely different blues duo, Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore, gave us familiar songs (and one original), reinvented. O’Brien’s stunning vocals swing from delicacy to domination in a heartbeat, and Moore’s exquisite guitar provides more than just background. This marriage was made in Heaven.
Read the entire review here 

Shetland Folk Festival Reviews from The Shetland Times May 2015
Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore took to the stage with their blend of folk, jazz and blues. No stranger to the isles, this trip makes Mollie’s third to the Festival. Completely owning her vocals, O’Brien’s stunning range and rich, fluid delivery is accompanied by husband Moore on guitar, their set including songs by Dave Van Ronk and Tom Paxton as well as original material. Eased along by their warm and funny stage presence, it makes for a treat of a performance and one not to be missed.
Read the entire review here

Next up were American duo Mollie O’Brien and her “current husband” Richard Moore (although they met in 1981 and have grown-up daughters) – a description O’Brien quickly changed to “my epic man”. Together they produced a brilliant and varied set, with Moore’s guitar accompanying the soaring, sweeping voice of his wife. O’Brien sang with gusto and raw power with jazzy or bluesy overtones, filling the vast arena. Some numbers were funny, like her own composition about trying to become a star in New York and some were thoughtful, about breaking up or questioning the definition of love. But all were delivered in her strong voice, alternately strident or sweet, with consistently clear diction. Read the entire review here

Danny Thompson and Friends: Connected, Old Fruit Market, Glasgow Tribute to John Martyn The Herald Scotland Rob Adams 31 Jan 2010
In the end, the tribute concert that wasn’t intended as a tribute concert paid a mighty tribute.

The main business of the evening may have been to focus on the assembled guests and the work that has reinforced their connections with Danny Thompson – and the classiness of Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien delivering their Walk Beside Me and O’Brien’s sister Mollie raising the hairs on the back of the neck with her gospel-infused singing of No Ash Will Burn, reinforced the quality of the great bass player’s associates.

There was, though, the feeling that performers and audience were in on a surprise party for someone who might turn up at any minute. He never did arrive, yet while Thompson avoided mentioning his late curly haired mate’s name until the last song, John Martyn was there all the time. He was in the music, with Scott paying early respects in Over the Hill and noting that, although they’d never met, he’d got a real sense of Martyn through Thompson; and he was in the recollections, sending Thompson off on an unscheduled tale of a fishing mishap. If the concert’s finale, Martyn’s May You Never, was a bit of a guddle, but a man who liked catching fish wouldn’t have minded that. Luka Bloom’s Head and Heart and Martin Simpson’s Spencer the Rover captured Martyn perfectly. Eddi Reader added Couldn’t Love You More with her customary vocal embroidery but the performance of the night, in Martyn and non-Martyn terms, was Mollie O’Brien’s foundation shaking Easy Blues, giving the curly haired mate’s jelly roll an invigorating tickle.
Sponsored by Scottish Power. Star rating: ****

GIG REVIEW Transatlantic Sessions Feb 1 2010
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

By Jim Gilchrist The Scotsman
THE ONLY problem with the crowd-drawing ritual that Transatlantic Sessions has become is that with as many as 18 Scots, Irish and American performers on stage, the characterful guest spots can risk homogenisation into a Celtic Connections house band sound. Friday night’s jamboree – led as ever by Aly Bain on fiddle and Jerry Douglas on slide guitar, with bassist Danny Thompson, accordionist Phil Cunningham and drummer James Mackintosh – boasted some stand-out performances, however, not least a barnstorming Celtic Connections debut from American roots singer Mollie O’Brien, whose choices ranged from gospel to a soulful Terence Trent d’Arby cover.

HERALD SCOTLAND March 27, 2013
Whoever coined the term pocket dynamo must have envisaged Mollie O’Brien. The West Virginian isn’t tall in stature but she has a veritable Grand Coolee Damful of soulful expression stored and ready to channel through her voicebox. If she concentrated on singing only the blues, O’Brien would be a marvel. But she has so much more than the raw passion of Bessie Smith or Victoria Spivey in her repertoire.

Her singing of Richard Thompson’s The Ghost of You Walks, which Thompson may well have written with Judy Collins in mind, and Harry Nilsson’s Think About Your Troubles harked back to the heyday of pure, clear folk singers like Collins and the pre-aged-with-smoke Joni Mitchell.

Roger Miller’s Train of Life was O’Brien’s calling card as a premier league country singer. Lonely for a While found her still meaning every word in 1950s pop mode, and Rodgers & Hart’s Everything I’ve Got Belongs to You, prefaced by her husband, Rich Moore’s mirthful speculation on female non-compliance in Ancient Greek society, offered up some vintage jazz ‘n’ razzamatazz.

It’s the musicality and control that O’Brien brings to her singing that impress possibly most of all. This is a woman with an instrument and she knows how to use it. Moore’s expert guitar picking and bassist Eric Thorin’s often brilliantly simple, plucked and bowed bass lines couched that voice in varied, always apposite arrangements, and when all three sang together there was an almost familial closeness of harmony and a Southern States church choir gospel quality. A much bigger platform for their talents surely awaits on their next visit.

It’s notable enough to hear Mollie O’Brien returning after a decade’s absence from the studio, but “Saints & Sinners” turns out to be a remarkable piece of work on a number of levels. Probably best known for her duet work with brother Tim O’Brien, she teams up this time around with guitarist Rich Moore, and while he lends a lot of vocal and instrumental substance, the highlight here is the continuing power and versatility of O’Brien’s vocals. The “Americana” format is tailor-made for the range of blues, gospel, show tunes and more she exhibits here, emphasizing once again that she’s in the same league as contemporaries and peers like Bonnie Raitt and Rory Block.

Of particular note as well is the diversity of material, drawing from Broadway (Rodgers and Hart’s Everything I’ve Got), Greenwich Village folkies like Dave van Ronk (Losers), pop icons like Harry Nilsson (Think About Your Troubles) and even a couple of Brits (Richard Thompson’s The Ghost of You Walks and George Harrison’s Don’t Bother Me). Perhaps the best track, though, is the one with the simplest arrangement, Mighty Close To Heaven, a spiritual song by J. B. Coats, a writer best known in the consciousness of Boomer-age folks from Linda Ronstadt’s 70s-era recording of his The Sweetest Gift. It would have been the easy choice for O’Brien and Moore to cover that as well, but it’s a sterling mark of the album that they go for the lesser known, but equally rewarding tune.

RAMBLES.NET Jerome Clark
It’s been a decade since a CD with Mollie O’Brien’s name gracing its cover (Things I Gave Away, Sugar Hill, 2000) elbowed its way into the world and to the listening devices of discerning music geeks. Consequently, Saints & Sinners, recorded in partnership with Rich Moore, was welcome in my house even before I had a chance to hear it. Hearing it, of course, was better, and hearing it a number of times turns out — no surprise — to be better yet.

O’Brien and Moore, who love their music but not their egos, endeavor to rouse the spirits of the songs, for which they have nigh unto perfect taste. No choice is a cliche, as I can testify as one who, having heard it all (well, a lot of it anyway), can spot the boring and predictable a mile away. No trace of it here; of the 13 cuts I was familiar with precisely three, and those three — Charley Jordan’s bawdy “Keep It Clean,” Dave Van Ronk’s caustic “Losers” and Rudy Toombs’s good-timey “I’m Shakin'” (covered by Little Willie John and later the Blasters, in both cases long ago) — are not ones that have had the chance to wear out their respective welcomes.

The songs cross genres, embracing raggy blues, pop, gospel, folkish singersongwriter material (from Richard Thompson, Jesse Winchester, David Francey, Tom Waits) to Beatles (George Harrison) and a show tune (Rodgers & Hart). It’s all good and all of a piece, with O’Brien’s warm, never showy, jazz-tinged vocals carrying each tune to its natural destination, be that earth or sky. She is ably supported by Moore’s acoustic guitar and harmony singing, plus a splendid acoustic band consisting of stringed instruments (including Mollie’s well-known brother Tim’s fiddle), horns and keyboards. The recording has the aura of pre-1950 pop without, however, feeling especially retro.

Amazingly, given how many artists fall to the temptation, O’Brien has managed to resist the siren call of singer-songwriterdom and focused her efforts on the fading art of interpretation. Only one song, “New Boots,” bears her byline, shared with Moore and co-producer Ben Winship, and it is a very fine one. In that sense O’Brien is like Van Ronk, who wrote only a handful of songs, every one of which is of exceptional quality.

If Saints & Sinner fails to charm you, I can only assume it’s because you lack ears or a soul. Possibly both.

Tim O’Brien’s ever upwardly arcing career has overshadowed the steadily productive one his sister Mollie has carved out as both a solo artist (appearing, always memorably, on some of Tim’s albums, in fact), as a duo with Tim, and now, for the second time (the first being 2007’s 900 Baseline), as a duo partner with her husband Rich Moore, who has otherwise been a highly regarded guitarist for various Colorado outfits, notably Pete Wernick’s Live Five. Like her brother, Mollie doesn’t recognize a lot of musical boundaries, and has no problem with unburdening herself of an affecting performance in any style she decides to tackle. Saints & Sinners is a highwater mark for her, and for the pair a big step forward from 900 Baseline in concept and execution.

Though there is only one true spiritual on the record—a low-key version of the great Chuck Wagon Gang’s “Mighty Close To Heaven” in which the original’s lively rhythm is supplanted by a lilting tempo, the better to summon the specter of impending mortality O’Brien sings of in a clear, triumphant mountain voice— Saints & Sinners is infused with spirituality. It’s not always as clear-cut as it is in “Mighty Close to Heaven,” though. David Yancey’s beautiful title tune, which finds O’Brien’s sturdy, measured reading backed by an affecting acoustic guitar and church piano, questions whether there is any grand plan amidst “war on the left, war on the right,” with the distant ringing of a bell, “for the saints and the sinners as well,” being the sole evidence of salvation a-borning. The haunting memories of lost love expressed in Richard Thompson’s exquisite, tear-stained “The Ghost of You Walks” achieve a spiritual transcendence by virtue of their hold on the singer’s memory. It may be a bit of a stretch, but some may even hear a bit of spiritual benevolence in O’Brien’s tempered, cabaret-style treatment of Jesse Winchester’s ironic “Lonely For a While,” a dyspeptic look at love by one who has bowed out of the game but wishes no ill will towards the happy couples he spies, even as he decides to “just be lonely for a while.”

On the other hand, a few items are in a league of their own, such as Tom Waits’s “Dead and Lovely,” a typically mordant letter from the dark side of “Sweet and Lovely,” that has nothing particularly nice to say about a certain woman’s character, but delights in the macabre, pointing out “but now she’s dead, so dead and lovely now,” in a musical setting out of a Parisian cabaret, with the dirge-like rhythm advanced by tuba, bowed bass, accordion, muted trumpet and mandolin, and O’Brien giving the lyrics an “I told you so” wry, dry reading. The torch rendition of George Harrison’s “Don’t Bother Me,” one of the best of the early Beatles’ songs but rarely heard anywhere anymore, is remarkable on a number of fronts: first, for simply being on the album, because it’s practically forgotten; second, for being reimagined in such stark, rootsy terms with acoustic guitar, mandolin, accordion; and not least of all, for O’Brien’s wounded vocal with its soft pleadings for solitude and a smidgen of rising anger at times. Rich Moore’s voice, heard throughout on guitar and harmony vocals, gets its big moment in the album’s signoff, “Cuba,” an original instrumental Moore wrote that winds down the festivities with the graceful, tropical ease of acoustic and pedal steel guitars, and winsome mandolin (courtesy Ben Winship)—reflective and soothing, it’s the proper exhale from the preceding tunestack’s parade of betrayal, death, hurt and loneliness. Which is not to suggest Moore’s cleaning up all the mess others have left in their wake, but rather signaling something positive, the hope of a brighter day ahead. It’s a nice touch, and Saints & Sinners is beautiful to behold.

Mollie O’Brien possesses an amazing voice in a class companioned by very few others. In fact, the only comparative that comes right to mind is Joan Baez. O’Brien so easily demonstrates what a human voice is capable in a richly melodic context that innumerable nuances can easily be lost for the sheer dexterity of it all. However, such a climate only begs for repeat listens, in order that one assure oneself that such flawless artistry is indeed so bogglingly present. Rich Moore plays a fingerstyle guitar as far as I can tell, though I seem to detect plectrum work here and there. He also stands as the instrumental center for an aggregate of skillful sessioneers making this disc a feast of note perfect musicianship and interpretation.

The two wrote a couple of tunes (rather, Rich wrote one and then he and Mollie collaborated on another with a third party) but then opened an armoire full of extremely well selected works by others, including Tom Waits, Jesse Winchester, Harry Nilsson, and so on. Many of these tracks are quite earthy, as Richard Thompson’s The Ghost of You Walks amply demonstrates, but, I rush to point out, with not a note of vulgarity (and please note that the word really means ‘baseness’ or ‘lowness’, not the ‘foul-mouthed’ it has come to substitute for; the derivation is in elder aspects of the eternal class war—check the dictionary, you’ll see it) pervades anywhere; rather, a mature grappling with more than a few of the unspoken aspects of Eros predominates. Then there’s the ravishing treatment of Winchester’s Lonely for a While where O’Brien embodies Joanie, Edith Piaf, Judy Collins, Ute Lemper, and Christina Marrs (from the imperishable Asylum Street Spankers). Simply too marvelous for words.

You’re unlikely to encounter another singer like this any time soon, and the music is seductive to a fault, half boozy with rustic sensibility and sensuality while timewarped in Weimar and other decadences, echoing Fitzgerald by way of Lightfoot before going country, gospel, and show. Most definitely a best of the year showcase contender for top honors, “Saints & Sinners” is a rare delight that re-pegs the mark in the same fashion as Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut, anything by Baez, Janis Ian’s At Seventeen, and a few other treasures the female voice has previously achieved. Miss it at your peril.