“Universal Favorite” is the fourth record Noam Pikelny has released under his own name, but it’s truly his solo debut. His previous efforts were full-band affairs that revealed his abilities as a dynamic bandleader while reinforcing his reputation as an inventive accompanist. The new release features only the man himself, playing lovely originals and covers that showcase his unique approach to the instrument and compositional flair. He recorded them live in the studio without accompaniment, coaxing a wide array of sounds and colors out of his instruments, embracing the challenges and exploring the new possibilities of the solo setting.
With her ethereal voice and substantive songwriting, Aoife O’Donovan captivates fans and critics alike. Her most recent solo album, “In the Magic Hour” — produced by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Neko Case) — is a 10-song album full of the singer’s honeyed vocals mixed with gauzy, frictionless sounds. It is the follow-up to her acclaimed solo debut, “Fossils.” For the the preceding decade, O’Donovan wielded her instrument with tensile strength as the captivating lead singer of the Boston-based progressive string band Crooked Still. She was a featured vocalist on “The Goat Rodeo Sessions,” the Grammy-winning album by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile, has made regular appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and is part of the band I’m With Her, with fellow musicians Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz.