Mollie O'Brien and her husband Rich Moore have been fixtures in the Denver music scene for more than 30 years. Mollie's brother, Tim O'Brien, moved to Nashville to get his career to the next level, but Mollie chose to stay in Denver. While this decision may have limited her musical opportunities, it certainly hasn't diminished her talent. On Saints and Sinners we have an opportunity to hear Mollie at her best.
Although they have released several albums over the years culled from their many live gigs, Saints & Sinners is Mollie and Rich's first studio album together. It features Mollie's voice and Rich's guitar and bandleading. How to describe Mollie's voice? She has the power and control of a classical singer, but the sensibilities of a 40's songbird. Mollie can sound theatrical, especially compared to the generally monotone delivery favored by many alt-country-roots performers, because her interpretations inject so much emotion and lucidity into the words. She also takes more risks than most singers, with subtle slides and the ability to lean into notes with an intensity that probably gave co-producers Ben Winship and Eric Thorin, and their limiter, fits. Winship also contributes mandolin, bouzouki, banjo, and harmony vocals while Thorin adds all bass and tube parts as well as more harmony vocals. Rich's finger-picking is impeccable throughout.
The songs on Saints and Sinners come from everywhere. Tunes by Richard Thompson, Richard Rogers, George Harrison, Dave Van Ronk, Harry Nilsson, and Jessie Winchester join two originals. Her rendition of the Winchester song, "Lonely for a While," feels very much like a set piece plucked from a 1930's musical, so delicate yet with a light bounce. Again Mollie's delivery made me understand the words and emotions of this song in a way that I never did before, even after many listens to Winchester's original recording.