"Mind-blowing," "stunning," "dazzling," "brilliant," "strikingly original," "exceptionally superb," "extraordinary," "very unusual . . . !" are the sorts of words fans use to describe the Canadian singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O'Hara. "One of the most powerful singers I've ever heard," R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe once called her; "a performer of astonishing force."

Stipe's endorsement was reprinted on a promotional sticker affixed to Koch Records' 1996 reissue of Miss America, O'Hara's only full-length recording, originally released by Virgin Records in 1988. Even more impressive than the devotion O'Hara inspires is that it's pretty much based on one 44-minute, 49-second album. Wanting more, devotees have tracked down her Christmas EP (Koch, 1996) and her contributions to the compilations Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation-The Songs of Vic Chesnutt (Columbia, 1996) and September Songs: A Tribute to Kurt Weill (Sony, 1997). They've cataloged her guest spots on records by Bruce Cockburn, Morrissey, Gary Lucas, John & Mary, Paul Haines, the Henrys, and others. They've found cover versions of her songs by the Cowboy Junkies, the Walkabouts, This Mortal Coil, Holly Cole, Sue Garner. They've seen, or at least noted, her acting in independent movies such as Candy Mountain (1987) and Apartment Hunting (2000). The lucky few who've been to her concerts employ the full range of superlatives to describe those appearances, in which M2OH, as she's known, enacts the songs through a transformative series of seemingly involuntary motions. "You were watching an immensely sophisticated artist figuring out from scratch what it is to sing," Amy Taubin explained in the Village Voice after a 1998 show. "When it all comes together-the voice, the rhythm, the lyrics-each time is the first time, and it's ecstasy."

(Bio courtesy of www.perfectsoundforever, written by Kurt Wildermuth)