Celtic music has always called to me. At first I found Enya (Watermark is still my favorite) and that led to Clannad (Dulaman). Then I found Loreena McKennitt (The Visit) and Solas (Sunny Spells & Scattered Showers). Whether it's a jig, a reel, or a ballad... Whether there are lyrics or it's purely instrumental... They all seem to call to the distant parts of my Irish heritage.
When I first heard Loreena in college, I fell in love with "All Souls Night" and "Between the Shadows" on The Visit. The rise and fall of her voice in conjunction with the eerie lyrics evoked images of spirits dancing to commemorate the end of one season and the beginning of another. But even more than her voice, the way she constructs her songs with traditional instruments and intricate arrangements is what's kept them floating around in my head for nearly twenty years.
The Mask and Mirror had a slightly different feel, going with more of a Spanish/Arab sound. And The Book of Secrets was the last album I picked up of hers. The song "The Mummer's Dance" received a ton of airplay in the late 1990s and it seemed to pander a bit to pop sensibilities. It didn't help that when the movie Ever After came out starring Drew Barrymore, the song was used in a trailer for the film. With the saturation of both radio and television, I lost track of her music after that.
That brings me to this year, when I heard she was releasing an album that went back to her roots and more of a Celtic/Scottish feel. The Wind That Shakes the Barley was the result. And though it's still not my favorite album of hers, it has renewed my interest in her music again.
Though the album is filled with traditional Celtic songs, I have to admit that I'd only heard one - "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" - which had been done in a version I love by Solas and another by Dead Can Dance. These songs range from "Down By the Sally Gardens," which is based on a poem by William Butler Yeats and "The Parting Glass" and "The Star of the County Down," both traditional Irish songs... to an original instrumental from McKennitt called "The Emigration Tunes."