on 26 January 2011
Sorry to say I don't follow the hype around this present release and find it quite disappointing. I am looking at it in the context of her last number of releases - a Best of and concert double CD (with too much replication) a Christmas album (not usually a sign of great creativity) a concert DVD of old material (which is wonderful) and this collection which is basically a set of Irish folk songs. So I see this not as a triumphant return to her "roots" but rather as a worrying sign that she has lost her creative muse.
Lovers of Irish folk will already own superior versions of practically all of these songs. Other than "The Parting Glass" there is little thought or imagination evident in these arrangements. In this tune Loreena does modify her sound and this is welcome as too many of her songs are now "samey". Uileann pipes are prominent and her voice has lost none of it's quality but I would far rather her to come up with original material and with a soundscape that is evolving. Perhaps collaboration with Irish songwriters or musicians might lead to a more productive process that would still satisfy Loreena's attachment to things Celtic but this release does not suggest future glories to match her earlier classics (all of which I own, by the way)
I wish I could write to the contrary but, in my view, this is not an essential purchase.
I recently heard Loreena McKennitt for the first time on Radio 2 singing `The Star of the County Down'. I was blown away by the beauty of her voice. The last time a singer had that effect on me was when I first heard the sadly little known Martin Sexton singing `Black Sheep'. I went straight onto Amazon and brought this album. Canadian born McKennitt has a wonderful haunting quality to her voice, that you often find in people that have had to face the stormy vicissitudes of life. In 1998 her fiancé was killed in a boating accident, which must have had a devastating effect on her. But like Damascus steel forged in the furnace, her voice achieves that elusive soulful quality. It is clear from her singing that she has a natural affinity with Celtic music, and has gone back to her roots with this CD.
The CD sleeve says I quote "Every once in a while, there is a pull to return to one's own roots or beginnings, with the perspective of time and experience, to feel the familiar things you once loved and love still", which is a nice way of putting it. All the words are traditional except "Down by the Sally Gardens". The title is taken from a well known Irish ballad that was also used for the Ken Loach film. Loreena has indeed returned triumphantly to the roots she loves. My only regret is that there are two lovely instrumental pieces where I did not get the opportunity to listen to more of that beautiful voice. Some might say aren't seven out of nine enough? My reply would be "Not for me I'm a pig".
on 13 April 2014
Some very beautiful, historically important and significant songs. Musical arrangements well-balanced and pleasing to the ear. The interpretation of 'Down by The Salley Gardens' was extremely poor: the phrasing just awful. This is a poem, the words were broken': 'snow-white became two words with a pause for a breath in between. There were other similar 'moments' all of which combined to produce a performance which utterly destroyed the beauty and meaning of this song. It really is a great pity given that the singer has the quality of voice and the sensitivity to be so much better.
I am a great fan of Loreena,(I have all her previous albums) and I listened to this latest with great anticipation. But what a disappointment! The appeal of this artist is not just in her performance and musicality, but in the originality of her writing, her eclectitism and exploration. This collection is frankly banal in comparison with'Muse' or 'Secrets': she may be 'returning to her roots' but I found the earlier versions of several of these songs far stronger and more complex, while the 'new' additions to the repertoire are unmemorable to say the least.
We played this CD once. Then we gave it to the charity shop
on 5 April 2011
This is a CD for anyone who likes Irish or Celtic folk music. Although I had never heard of this artist Loreena McKennitt so I was buying 'blind' I was delighted with this product and as my wife who was listening with 'half an ear' remarked "some of the tracks are really haunting". A first class buy. Some of the tracks were new to me but were most enjoyable, I particularly liked her redition of 'Down by the Sally Gardens' and 'The Star of the County Down'
on 17 January 2011
Now I realize the title of this review is going to be controversial, as most people seem to love Loreena's recent output. But I bought Mask and Mirror when it was released, so that's about 17 years ago, and since then, I find that Loreena's been repeating herself, using the same old recipe, over-produced celtic-pop-new-agey music. What was new, what I loved and still love in Mask and Mirror, had just become very pedestrian to me. Mask and Mirror is a stunning album, one I still listen to regularly. I just never wanted to listen to Mask and Mirror 2, 3, 4... which all her subsequent albums have been.
Which brings us back to The Wind... Is there anything new here? Nope. But Loreena's shaken off all the overheard, formulaic (her own formula, to be fair, but still a formula to me) arrangements that burdened the music in her previous albums. She seems to suddenly have become herself again: a sensitive, delicate artist. The music is simple, heartfelt, pure. It doesn't feel like "stadium Loreena" anymore.
I really enjoy this album. I'm a old fan, and like old fans I tend to be tough and demanding, but this one is the real deal.
Is it perfect? No, it could be more adventurous. But who cares. Maybe that'll be her next album!
Welcome back Loreena!
on 15 March 2012
I have virtually all of Loreena's work, and she has been for many years my favourite performer (and seen live, perhaps even better). This album seems to have disappointed quite a lot of people here, with comments such as being uninspired, dreary or showing a lack of imagination. Those who really enjoyed it seem to have been the ones who found that her recent albums have been getting repetetive. I don't normally write reviews, but I see things a bit differently here.
There's no doubt that this recording is less immediately original than her middle-eastern style music - but that's the point of a traditional album. It's trying to achieve something else instead. If you compare it with work by a lot of other modern folk singers, they may have beautiful voices, but there is nowhere near the emotional power that Loreena brings. She doesn't quite have the same purity of voice, perhaps, but every word has particular intonation; you can really feel the despair in 'the Death of Queen Jane', the bittersweet farewell in 'The Parting Glass' and the plucky courage leading to resigned foolishness in 'The Star of County Down'. What this album gives us is a new way of looking at these old songs - Loreena manages to convey the meaning behind them, as fresh as if we there at the writing, when so many other singers just aim for beautiful music. I think this is where Loreena really is different to most singers today: her aim is put across the power of the story, not just to create things that are beautiful to listen to.
I think there's a clue to why she produced this now in the intonation of some of the songs. Many of them change their character towards the end, finishing in regret and acceptance of past foolishness. This is maybe most powerful in 'the Sally Gardens' and in the title track, where life and love are sacrificied for a political cause. In a nutshell, it is maturity that is coming through most strongly - she's telling us that she sees things differently now. Yes, she has been through tragedy, but perhaps more importantly, she's just a little older. (Incidentally, we see the same things in the recent albums of Kate Bush and Tori Amos - a powerful new maturity that has disappointed some long-standing fans because they have changed...) Loreena truly understands the significance behind the tunes and the lyrics, and what the whole point of singing folk songs is. It wouldn't surprise me if she felt that her other wonderful albums (the exquisite Book of Sectrets included) have been a little frivolous, in some ways. They're wonderful music, but in large parts (with exceptions, such as Dante's Prayer) she was just playing when she wrote those. People will enjoy those for generations... but because these traditional songs refer to the fundamental, timeless aspects of the human condition, they not only sound beautiful, but they are a source of wisdom.
In summary, it's a new development as much as a return to her roots. She always presented a powerful feeling and raw emotional intonation, but here that has been pared down, put back into familiar, traditional vehicles, and honed to sheer folk perfection. Yes, in many places the songs are sad and regretful, but life often is - the question is how we deal with it. This isn't just music - sit down with nothing to do but listen, and then really listen. You'll be transported to the middle ages, or back to teenage days of folly; you will feel the pain of unfair circumstances and loss, but you'll come to understand - in the end, all we can do is accept our decisions and their outcomes. I'm sure Loreena will go back to the more exotic music soon, but I truly hope there is at least one more album like this.
There has always been a heavy Celtic influence on Loreena McKennit's music, right back to the beginning of her career. But "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" may be her most Celtic album to date -- a collection of nine Celtic folk songs, driven by McKennitt's powerful voice and some beautiful traditional instrumentation.
It opens with a hearty rendition of "As I Roved Out," a ballad about a young soldier secretly meeting his lover one night, which is a pretty earthy peppy song for the usually ethereal McKennitt. And in the same tone, there's the bodhran-tinged melody of "The Star of the Country Down," and the silvery-edged earthiness of "Brian Boru's March."
McKennit sounds more at home in the slower songs: the harp melody of "On A Bright May Morning," the melancholy afternoon ballad "Down By The Sally Gardens," the tragic string-laden title ballad, the melancholy wobbles of "The Death of Queen Jane," and the languid instrumental "The Immigration Tunes."
Best moment in the album: the fairylike shimmers of the final song, "The Parting Glass" (complete with McKennitt's whispered, "... that I should rise/and you should not/I'll gently rise and softly call/Good night and joy be with you all").
"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is a pretty good glimpse of Celtic music as a whole -- there are peppy songs about pretty girls and Irish lads falling in love, but underneath the surface there is blood, tragedy and powerful emotions. It makes you think of early mornings in the forest, cloudy skies and a gentle rain on green fields that stretch out to the sea.
Unlike in McKennitt's other albums, there isn't any Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean influence in these songs. It also feels sparer and less lush than her previous work, turning it into a purely Celtic sound. Instead you have an earthy tapestry of fiddles, guitars, pipes, bells and the dull thuds of the bodhran, as well as her omnipresent rippling harp.
My one problem with this album? The peppier songs. I like "As I Roved Out" and "The Star of the County Down," but they're too simple and chipper for McKennitt's powerful, haunting vocals -- it always sounds like she's dying to just burst out, but doesn't because the songs don't call for it. Fortunately, the slower, sadder songs fit her beautifully.
"The Wind Shakes The Barley" has a couple of songs that fit McKennit like a three-fingered glove, but otherwise it's an exquisite, haunting tribute to Celtic music.
on 25 July 2011
Loreena McKennitt's ninth studio sees her cover traditional Irish folk songs, bar one of the songs which she wrote herself. Although there is not that much originality in the way that she has chosen to arrange the songs, they work very well as an ensemble, providing the listener with an interesting variety of musical instruments to hear, possibly for the first time. Her voice is as angelic and pure as usual and the songs she has chosen suit her well.
Most of the songs have their own special little something. "On A Bright May Morning" is probably the best track on this album, being a very intimate ballad with a beautiful harp arrangement and lovely vocals. "Down By The Sally Gardens" has a celebratory feel to it with emotive uilleann pipes. The title track "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" has a mournful quality to it together with a haunting peacefulness in its sheer simplicity. The same goes for the final track "The Parting Glass". However, not every song is that inspiring as "The Death Of Queen Jane" is a little dull.
I do tend to prefer when artists release their own music and creations, but the collection of songs on "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" is a very decent effort merely for the fact that Loreena McKennitt does Irish music so well. For that reason, it is worth the purchase and deserves 4 stars.
on 18 January 2011
It may not be on pair with her other music: THE BOOK OF SECRETS which I consider to be her best; however I found this CD worth listening too. Different but still talented music and whether you are an admirer or new to her music you will not be disappointed