It's notable enough to hear Mollie O'Brien returning after a decade's absence from the studio, but "Saints & Sinners" turns out to be a remarkable piece of work on a number of levels. Probably best known for her duet work with brother Tim O'Brien, she teams up this time around with guitarist Rich Moore, and while he lends a lot of vocal and instrumental substance, the highlight here is the continuing power and versatility of O'Brien's vocals. The "Americana" format is tailor-made for the range of blues, gospel, show tunes and more she exhibits here, emphasizing once again that she's in the same league as contemporaries and peers like Bonnie Raitt and Rory Block.
Of particular note as well is the diversity of material, drawing from Broadway (Rodgers and Hart's Everything I've Got), Greenwich Village folkies like Dave van Ronk (Losers), pop icons like Harry Nilsson (Think About Your Troubles) and even a couple of Brits (Richard Thompson's The Ghost of You Walks and George Harrison's Don't Bother Me). Perhaps the best track, though, is the one with the simplest arrangement, Mighty Close To Heaven, a spiritual song by J. B. Coats, a writer best known in the consciousness of Boomer-age folks from Linda Ronstadt's 70s-era recording of his The Sweetest Gift. It would have been the easy choice for O'Brien and Moore to cover that as well, but it's a sterling mark of the album that they go for the lesser known, but equally rewarding tune.