For Chicago singer Nora O'Connor, the summer of 2010 is shaping up to be the highest-profile of her career.

After a year of occasional dates and TV performances with Neko Case (alongside her regular harmonizer Kelly Hogan) and a one-off reunion show with her former alt-country compatriots the Blacks, O'Connor will spend the summer on the road in North America and Europe with Jakob Dylan as part of his Three Legs band while getting ready for the release of Mavis Staples' Jeff Tweedy-produced solo album on which her and Hogan's vocals play a prominent role.

For O'Connor, it's an exciting return to music after a hiatus to raise sons James, 4, and Archie, 2. The Chicago native has served as the secret vocal weapon behind acts like Case, John Wesley Harding, Archer Prewitt and the Aluminum Group. She spent five years touring and recording as part of Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire and was the other non-Canadian (besides Case) to appear on the first three New Pornographers albums. Solo album "Til the Dawn" came out in 2004 on Bloodshot Records.

Now, O'Connor's work with Staples is sure to earn her even greater renown. O'Connor and Hogan performed with Staples once' at a 2002 benefit concert' but hadn't heard from her until she was asked to the sessions. "I was blown away that she actually wanted me and Kelly," O'Connor says. "She and her sister, Yvonne, were there the whole time. We were scared, but she took that away and treated us as part of the family."

O'Connor is busy with other projects at home in Chicago, but if Staples calls for some gigs, she's ready. "I would really love to," she says, "and really hope to sing some of those songs again."