Life After Life – Mark and Maggie O’Connor

Mark O’Connor’s credentials are second to none in the world of traditional music. A triple Grammy winner and seven-time CMA Musician of the Year, he’s an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist who is equally adept on fiddle, guitar, and mandolin. He’s also made his mark as a modern classical composer, having broken new ground with such stirring compositions as Appalachia Waltz and The Fiddle Concerto. His wife, Maggie O’Connor, is also adept and accomplished in her own right, courtesy of a Grammy win, a master’s degree in classical violin performance from the famed Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and an extended stint in the O’Connor Family Band.

This year, the two celebrate a personal and professional partnership that began in 2014 with the American Classical violin duo. Their work has currently culminated in their most accessible effort yet, Life After Life, a series of songs composed mainly by Mark (who’s also credited with production), but which decidedly benefits from the input of both. Maggie takes her turn as lead singer on several of the tracks, which also feature additional contributions from upright bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer/percussionist John Gardner.

The result is a consistently infectious set of songs, which, true to the album’s title, expresses the need for hope and optimism, even in the face of obstacles and adversity. They speak to rebirth and revival, with a sound that’s so bright and buoyant it’s all but impossible to resist their beck and call. To that end, the album includes three select covers — Stevie Wonder’s Love’s in Need of Love Today, Something to Love, by Jason Isbell, and Wildflowers, a stunning classic credited to Dolly Parton. 

Happily then, the original material maintains those uplifting ideals. The rollicking and robust Spice of Life, One Sunray At A Time, and We Just Happened To Fly, are conveyed with an energy and enthusiasm that reflect the sentiment suggested by the songs titles themselves. The couple’s buoyant vocals, the rousing emotions, and rich arrangements allow these offerings to resonate and reverberate with the joy and jubilation that was obviously intended. So too, the sweetness and serenity found in the title track, Ride Towards Home, and Joe Henry’s tender lyrics, All We Will Be, further affirm that sense of stillness that pervades the album overall.

The album concludes with a lovely and lilting instrumental take on the old Ukrainian folk song, Verbovaya Doschechka, wrapping the proceedings in a way reminiscent of O’Connor’s Appalachian waltzes. Here again, it affirms the fact that life — and Life After Life — are indeed well worth cherishing.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.