Jennifer O'Connor at the Hi-Tone Cafe 

Folkie singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen, and I rarely glom onto one who doesn't crack a good joke now and then. But Jennifer O'Connor grabbed me hard with her 2006 album Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars, her debut for indie behemoth Matador after a couple of more obscure releases on smaller labels. O'Connor's plain-spoken song-poetry was smart, concrete, and evocative, delivered in a sandy, matter-of-fact voice — slices of life about driving home from the airport after dropping off a lover ("Exeter, Rhode Island") or missing a sister ("Sister") the kind of commonplaces you relate to even without a lover or sister of your own. And though there was sadness there, O'Connor never wallowed in it. Her follow-up, 2008's Here With Me, wasn't quite so perfect, but did it ever have its moments: "Valley Road, '86," a rich memory of lost teen friendship with shivering hints of nascent eroticism; "Xmas Party," a disappointed snapshot of a relationship in trouble. O'Connor returned last year with I Want What You Want, released via her own Kiam Records label, and lands in town this week en route back from the South by Southwest Music Festival. O'Connor plays an early show at the Hi-Tone Café on Sunday, March 18th, with Tim Foljahn and Alexa Wilding. Doors open at 5 p.m. Admission is $7.

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