For many singers, the covers album is a quick and convenient stop-gap, a way to maintain a profile until their own compositional juices start flowing again. For classy interpreters like O’Sullivan, however, it’s a full-blooded and astutely thought-out project. Here is a vocalist oozing with confidence and brimming with ideas of how to re-imagine others’ music.
Even on the most familiar of these tracks, the Irish-born chanteuse manages to leave her individual mark, respectful to the originals but aware of their further potential. There’s been no shortage of versions of Trent Reznor’s Hurt or Nick Cave’s The Ship Song down the years, but O’Sullivan dismantles them to their very bones and rebuilds from the ground up.
The undeniably folky hues of her voice are perfectly suited to Gillian Welch’s Revelator, but there’s an added frisson to her reading, while Lady Grinning Soul (first heard on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane) filters through the speakers like a spectre from another world. Two Radiohead covers (True Love Waits, Nude) benefit from the singer’s sparse approach, melodies to the fore, while Tom Waits’ All The World Is Green isn’t far removed from the melodrama of the live album of Jacques Brel songs O’Sullivan released in 2005.