Alison O'Donnell

singer, musician and writer of songs & soundscapes

Penny Black Music

The Guardian, Jude Rogers, 23 August 2019. “Also out this month: Charlie Parr’s eponymous debut is roaring American folk-blues with its plaid shirt plastered on. A charismatic voice and bright finger-picking raise it above cliches, the latter well done given Parr shattered his shoulder last year, and needed eight pins to fix it. Martin Simpson’s double album Rooted snaps lustily with songs about nature, history and mental health, performed with folk stalwarts (including Nancy Kerr and John Smith) and Simpson’s neighbour Richard Hawley. Alison O’Donnell’s Exotic Masks and Sensible Shoes is also a great Bandcamp find, featuring the Mellow Candle and United Bible Studies acid-folk singer as she turns into a woozier Dory Previn.”

Four Star review in Shindig August 2019 issue.

Mini-tour with United Bible Studies set for end June. Hereford, Leigh-on-Sea and tbc.

Third solo album entitled ‘Exotic Masks and Sensible Shoes’ was released on Floating World records (freeworld) July 2019.

Buntús Rince: Explorations in Irish Jazz, Fusion & Folk 1969-81, a compilation vinyl with a track from Mellow Candle was launched in Dublin by RTE presenter and DJ Peter Curtin in April 2019.

On 30th December 2018 RTE 1 aired the documentary ‘Old Town’, which features Phil Lynott’s song and deals with the making of the video. Alison was a talking head on the programme.

In October 2018 I went on a mini-tour to Britain with United Bible Studies.

My second solo album, written and created with Dave Colohan, fellow United Bible Studies student, was released by Mega Dodo on 13th July 2017 on vinyl/cd/digital. It is available from Mega Dodo, my own bandcamp, and from Tower Records Dublin and various outlets in Britain. Also on Spotify and iTunes.

Review in BlissAquamarine. 

Two-thirds page article Page 10, The Irish Times 15th August 2017 on career in music with a nod to the new solo album by Lauren Murphy.

Excellent reviews in The Wire and fRoots. 3 star review in The Irish Times.

A review from Expose online. 


Psych Wolves:

Thanks for Dave Thompson for this best ever review in Goldmine.

BBC 6 Music:

Meet The Artist Interview from BAM magazine with United Bible Studies.

Playing The Old Dentist, London 30th June, Belfast 8th July, Drift Records, Totnes 10th August, Sidmouth Festival 11th August, all with United Bible Studies.

Here is a recent interview with Penny Black Music.

And also a review of Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace from Penny Black.

May 2017 podcast with Jason Barnard of The Strange Brew. Almost 50 years of making music.

My new Bandcamp site is up with lots of my music over the years. Please do check in to

Great review of new United Bible Studies vinyl by Dave Thompson for Goldmine.

Playing Warzone in Belfast with United Bible Studies on 26th November 2016.

Don't have a purchase facility set up here but if anyone wishes to buy 'Anointed Queen', you can buy it via Firefay's Bandcamp site or my own.. 

Concert with Firefay at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, 6th December 2016.

Review of Richard Moult's solo album.

Mellow Candle Interview with Psychedelic Baby Magazine with Clodagh Simonds March 2016.

Review of the redux edition 2015 Fabric of Folk.

A review of United Bible Studies "Doineann":
Alison O’Donnell makes a welcome appearance on Across The Blackened Fields. The former Mellow Candle singer has grown richer, witchier, and more interesting with age. Here, multi-tracked, she is frost-bitten and brooding. An electronic throb, intensifying almost imperceptibly, leads the song to its open ended conclusion. With its pagan atmosphere and synthetic bleeps it is an unlikely but successful meeting of ancient and modern, and as such is a neat summation of both sides of the UBS coin. Read review

Folk Radio UK
A review of "Anointed Queen":
It is almost tempting to read this album’s title as O’Donnell’s tongue in cheek reference to herself, but on repeated listening it becomes apparent that perhaps we should be taking it more literally. O’Donnell has earned her place as the fairy godmother of acid folk. Anointed Queen is another pinnacle in her consistently excellent career, and in Firefay she has found a set of musicians eclectic and imaginative enough to provide a backdrop for her beguiling songs.

The Active Listener
Alison talks "Anointed Queen":
Alison O’Donnell should need no introduction; legendary vocalist with Acid Folk luminaries Mellow Candle, sometime singer with Irish wyrdsters United Bible Studies and England’s own acid tinged folk outfit The Owl Service, solo artist in her own right (listen to ‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’) and now collaborator of the band Firefay with their splendid new album ‘Anointed Queen’. Oh and she has also recently recorded with a couple of chancers called The Hare And The Moon, whoever they might be. This latter escapade introduced me to Alison on the eve of the release of the Firefay album; what better a time to ask this most influential of singers a few choice questions about ‘Anointed Queen’, her rich musical past, and range of projects both ongoing and future.

The Active Listener
A review of "Anointed Queen":
’Anointed Queen’, with Alison ably backed by Firefay’s masterful psych folk, is an album that is at turns unpredictable, chilling, heart-breaking and exhilarating; it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with her best work.

Interview in The Wire with United Bible Studies, November 2015.

Interview with Pete Paphides, Soho Radio, November 2015.

Out With The Old and In With The News
A review of The Execution of Frederick Baker:
Alison O’Donnell (vocalist with Mellow Candle) has a rich ethereal voice that mingles playfully and tunefully with HSBW’s astonishing guitar work.

A review of The Execution of Frederick Baker:
This is a terrific work, musically deft, lyrically interesting and a must for fans of classic folk rock, modern folk rock and all stations in between.

Happening Magazine
Happening Magazine reviews The Execution of Frederick Baker:
Marking O’Donnell out from many of her generation is her willingness to experiment with a range of current musicians, including the experimental Irish free-folk collective United Bible Studies and the glassy brilliance of The Owl Service. Here, she and HSBW are generally in measured mood – the overall musical feel is of gentle folk-rock, but the music is awarded complexity through some striking lyrical themes.

The Rocktologist
The Rocktologist reviews The Execution of Frederick Baker:
Graeme and Alison have put together a really beautiful album – gentle and tender on one side, but capable of producing stormy weather as well, both on the instrumental and vocal front. Fans of folk rock and the likes of Jethro Tull, Horselips and Clannad should pick this up without a second thought. Highly recommended!

Colchester Arts Blog
Colchester Arts Blog reviews United Bible Studies:
The night culminated in the carefully controlled United Bible Studies, who skirted the knife edge of improv with a control that belied the size of the group. Possibly because core member David Colohan wasn’t present, there seemed to be a real traditional Irish Folk cast to the songs, with Alison O’Donnell delivering plaintive ballads and animalistic screeches. 

Shindig Magazine
A review of Big Dwarf "Towards Abstraction":
‘Kill ‘em (In Their Sleep)’s snaky synths, long bong inhalations, and wobbly-kneed rhythms will keep you on the dance floor until the epic ‘Fear Of Flying’ ups the funk-o-meter with some James Brown grooves and sultry moves and angelic backing accompaniment from legendary folk-psych siren Alison O’Donnell. Closing salvo ‘Inner Space’ brings a sexy, Cohenesque swagger to an ephemeral, English afternoon rumination powered heavenward by another ecstatic O’Donnell vocal that sends shivers down the backbone and harkens back to long forgotten nights wasted on the love jones over ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ and her namesake Moyet’s soul-shattering bravado. 

The Active Listener
A review of Big Dwarf "Towards Abstraction":
"Inner Space" is commandeered by the authoritative vocal presence of Mellow Candle's Alison O'Donnell who comes across like some shamanistic hippie goddess with a lesson for all mankind, deftly supported by some floaty Orb-tastic electronic ambiance.

Featured in Sophie Cooper's 2013 Round-up:
1. United Bible Studies at Woolf Music: A truly unforgettable experience, I loved this blimming gig. It was like watching Shirley Bassey fronting Black Sabbath doing Incredible String Band covers aka AMAZING.

Check out video on Discograph/Video page performing The Rebel Girl. This is beyond entertainment. I hope as many people as possible might feel that they want to support the campaign for a new Liffey bridge to be named after the somewhat forgotten Rosie Hackett. The video is one of 113 made for the DCTV Tapestry project to mark the centenary of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out. It was filmed on Dublin's streets on May 11th 2013 in the wind, rain, hail and roaring traffic, not to forget the peripheral attention of several colourful street characters.

4 part Documentary from Phantom Radio on Music Subcultures.
Episode 1: 'The Peacocks Come To Town' (The 50's and 60's)

First solo album, 'Hey Hey Hippy Witch' on Floating World Records, 2010. 

Hey Hey Hippy Witch
Jeanette Leech

Alison O’Donnell has made so many contributions to the current folk scene, through her fine work with United Bible Studies and The Owl Service (among others), that it’s easy to forget she was also part of the original psych-folk generation as a teenager in Mellow Candle,. ‘Hey Hey Hippy Witch’ (Freeworld) reflects her collaborations, and is a wide-ranging, admirably speckled album. Throughout, O’Donnell’s captivating vocals and first-rate lyricism are to the fore, and at their peaks on the disturbing ‘Come Unto Me’ and the traditionally inspired ‘Song of the Gael’.

Alison was interviewed by Jeanette Leech for the book published by Jawbone Press in 2010 entitled Shifting Sands: The Story of Acid Folk.

the organ magazine
Day is Done/Frozen Warnings (Fruits De Mer)

You really can’t go wrong with a Nick Drake song can you? Well yes actually, these things are very precious, the bird has flown and you have to have something very very special to really live up to the magic of the original. Same with Nico, two beautifully tragic people, two exquisite music makers, two precious songs that require careful handling, loving care and attention to detail... Second part of this Fruits De Mer series of limited edition coloured vinyl seven inch singles where the label invites a singer, band or such to record two classic covers. Alison O’Donnell has such a rich dark full voice, she sings her choices of Nick Drake’s Day Is Done and Nico’s dark moody Frozen Warnings in such a beautifully transient way. So full of space and warmth, I must confess I was a little worried about listening to the Nick Drake cover - nothing to worry about here, these versions are wonderful. Really must go and explore what else she has, these versions are magical.

Pete Brown aka Toxic Pete
O'Donnell's naturally otherworldly delivery allows her to pick up Drake’s haunting and sentimental 'Day Is Done' and make it her own; …the almost inimitable Nico's 'Frozen Warnings' is positively dripping with icy darkness that fills the grim but somehow mellow depths of the piece with more superb vocalisation set against the drone of Cale-esque tones and timings. O'Donnell can hold her head high in the knowledge that she did herself and Drake and Nico proud with her scintillating versions of their songs.

Mark at Losing Today
…a brace of remarkable re-appraisals, whose intention it seems is to have you all a swoon…a caressing ghostly hue woven from the subtle dash of softly shimmering and hauntingly hushed psyche intonations …captures perfectly the fragile almost chilling monochrome appeal of the original and frames it within a darkly hollowing ethereal soft psyche folk mantra like bewitchment that's both statuesque in deliverance and enchantingly epic in appearance. Indescribably essential.

Nick Leese
at Heyday Mail Order London

…a more powerful rendition of the original without losing any of the feel lyrically that does no harm at all to Nick Drake's, or for that matter, Alison O'Donnell's continuing legacy… …takes Nico's stark message and drops the temperature further with an intense and hypnotic performance…Quite harrowing…Nico would have loved this!

Rough Trade
…adds an extra darkness and starkness to the already tragic originals…if you think Alison O'Donnell's best work is behind her - think again.

genuine, black, shimmering and positively medieval in its menace. Winter bleak...Drake is generally pure class and this is a cover that adds lustre…the fractured oscillations wrapped by sneaky percussion makes it all something that a sinister Syd Barrett would be doing for his dominatrix.

Having seen their magnificent performance at The Greenman Festival, I was really looking forward to hearing this EP when it fell through the door. Showing that she has lost none of her vibrancy or vocal power, Alison O'Donnell's vocals stole the show live, the closest I will ever get to seeing Mellow Candle perform, and a festival highlight. ... 

 Concert highlight of 2008 was an appearance at The Green Man Festival with The Owl Service. 

The April 2007 issue of Record Collector places Swaddling Songs in its Top 100 prog-rock quality rarities. It came in at Number 5 with five stars.

Rambles.NET 1 July 2006

Last year, while reviewing an excellent book on Irish folk and blues, I was reminded of a great group that I'd heard many years ago at a local festival in Wexford. As often happens when you are reminded of a sound from your youth, you want to recapture it. Unfortunately, CDs by Mellow Candle are probably as rare as hen's teeth, so I gave up. But the world is an amazing place, and this week I found Mise agus Ise ("Myself & Herself"), featuring the beautiful voice of Alison O'Donnell, along with Isabel Ni Chuireain. Alison was the 15-year-old sweet voice of the aforementioned Mellow Candle, and she has lost none of the magic -- in fact, I think she probably sounds even better. 

Sunday Tribune

Close your eyes on an Assie Williams (Alison O'Donnell) song and you could hear shades of the late Sandy Denny wending her lead vocals through a spectral silversong.

Sunday Times (S.A.)

It's high time somebody did something about finding a part for Assie O'Donnell that is worthy of her skills. She is a young lady of considerable talent (and not inconsiderable looks), and we see her far too seldom.

Record Collector

Singer Alison O'Donnell fluctuates from feistiness to an almost sacred sweetness.


Here's a welcome return. Alison O'Donnell, Dublin-born songstress, possesses one of the most unique yet underrated voices in Irish contemporary music. Hers is a haunting, yet captivating timbre relying on a natural, inbred strength.

Dirty Linen

O'Donnell, a veteran of the 1970s Irish folk-rock band Mellow Candle, is a singer whose wide-ranging voice jumps from an airy soprano to an earthy lower register. 

Mojo magazine 2006 rate Mellow Candle's Swaddling Songs as one of the top 50 genre-bending folk classic albums in forty years. It's a great peer group with albums from Donovan, Pentangle, Anne Briggs, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Nick Drake, Devendra Banhart & Joanna Newsom also included. 

Journalist and writer Colin Harper, together with co-author Trevor Hodgett, has written a new book entitled 'Irish Folk, Trad and Blues: A Secret History', which was published in November 2004, based on his articles about innovators in Irish music down through the years. A chapter on cult folk-rock band Mellow Candle is included. It is based partly on material published in Mojo Magazine, and also on recent, extensive interviews with the groups two founders, Alison and her childhood friend Clodagh Simonds. Alison and collaborator, Isabel Ni Chuireain, guested on a few numbers with the special house band (Brush Shiels, Henry McCullough & Jackie McAuley) for the night at the book's launch during the Belfast Festival in 2005. 'A Seeker's Guide to the Rhythm of Yesteryear' by writer, poet, DJ and political activist Shiloh Noone, is a biography of various musical genres which gives the nod to Mellow Candle. 2005 saw the publication by Cork University Press of 'Beautiful Day: Forty Years of Irish Rock' which also contained material about Mellow Candle. Dalkey is my hometown. Its beautiful parks, harbour and island have long been a source of inspiration for my songwriting. An Góilín Traditional Singer's Club is the oldest singing club in the country. It meets every Friday and frequently has special guests. There is a cover charge of €3 euros and the session starts at 9pm in the Teacher's Club on Parnell Square. Die Stadt Records and Janet Records. This is the site of former Mellow Candle member and childhood friend, Clodagh Simonds. This wonderful site documents the progress of South African township jazz, folk and rock music since the 1960s. 3rd Ear Music is the brainchild of David Marks, musician, writer, sound engineer and archivist, together with his wife Fran, of the Hidden Years Music Project. This is a unique collection of alternative South African music recorded live off desk mixes from township to city festivals, concerts, clubs and independent studios from 1964 to date. For many years David championed local music and gave it a platform when it was ignored by the commercial record industry. Today he is a highly respected figure in the South African music scene. David is responsible for the critical debut of Flibbertigibbet, Alison's traditional and original music group, founded with her former husband Dave Williams and Barrie and Jo Glenn in Johannesburg in 1977. David aims to keep this important archive alive and well, but in order for this to happen the HYMA needs donations and support 

At The Wishing Well (photo by Niall Reddy

At The Wishing Well (photo by Niall Reddy

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