On the first day of the Savannah Music Festival, cicadas chirped a chorus as Aoife O'Donovan sang sweetly into the microphone at the Ships of the Sea North Garden Thursday. Even the bugs knew that there was no better way to celebrate the first day of the festival -and the first day of spring- than with an outdoor concert.
O'Donovan started the night with a set of songs that showcased her lovely, airy voice, which is at once soothing and captivating. The Brooklyn-based songstress is currently touring with The Punch Brothers (also SMF performers), but was paired up with fellow Brooklynites The Lone Bellow Thursday.
After a rapid set change, the contemporary country group took the stage for a stirring performance. The stars of the night were lead singer and native Georgian Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin on vocals and mandolin, and Brian Elmquist on vocals and guitar. Each has a solo-worthy voice, but together they create beautiful three-part harmonies that are as powerful belted as they are soft.
Williams is the heart of the ensemble, however, and physically shakes with emotion on stage, as if he were trying to squeeze the lyrics out of his face.
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It's hard to believe The Lone Bellow are from Brooklyn, because they sound like they crawled out of the purest Appalachian mountain spring there is.
By the time their lively set ended, they had brought a sedentary audience to its feet.
If Aoife O'Donovan and The Lone Bellow weren't on your radar before, they definitely should be.
And if Thursday's show was any indication, the Savannah Music Festival is off to a fabulous start.