Aoife O’Donovan is blessed with an incisive knack for songwriting and a charming voice that’s one of the most in-demand commodities in the bluegrass and folk scenes right now. Just about the only thing going against O’Donovan is her tricky first name: it’s pronounced “Eee-fah” for the record.
On the heels of her debut solo release “Fossils,” O’Donovan stops by the Tractor Tavern Saturday for an evening of Americana and bluegrass with Brandi Carlile, who just stepped in to the lineup after Lone Bellow canceled. While she just turned 31, O’Donovan been a part of the bluegrass community for quite a while as the vocalist for Crooked Still, a progressive bluegrass outfit formed in 2001 while O’Donovan was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
In between recording five studio albums with Crooked Still, she found time to lend her vocals to numerous albums and wrote “Lay My Burden Down,” which Allison Krauss recorded for her Grammy-winning 2011 album “Paper Airplanes.”
O’Donovan uses “Lay My Burden Down” to open “Fossils,” which is one of the year’s best pieces of Americana and solidifies O’Donovan’s status as a rising star. The album leans toward country with just the right amount of steel guitar to sweeten her crackerjack band’s excellent work.
Songs like “Fire Engine” pleasantly hum with energy, while her lead single “Red & White & Blue & Gold” could be a top-40 hit on commercial country radio. That she’s able to infuse so much authenticity and longing into a song that could easily be played off as a summer anthem speaks to O’Donovan’s considerable abilities and appeal.
Aoife O’Donovan, Brandi Carlile
9 p.m. Saturday at the Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle; $15 (206-789-3599 or tractortavern.com)
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails