After many years away, Loreena McKennitt returns with a new album that sees her brand of folk music seeped in a Spanish flavour this time. It’s a very familiar fare though and so before I begin – if you enjoy McKennitt’s music, this is more of the exact same so you’ll love it – but if you can’t get onboard, this won’t convince you otherwise.
Across the nine tracks, you’ll find lush ballads with piano, guitar, accordion, strings, percussion galore. No matter how Spanish some tracks are, Loreena’s voice and piano chops always provide the base for each track and so the call of the Celts is never too far away. “Spanish Guitars and night Plazas” is a warm and sunny folklore jaunt through the Spanish lands. It has a wonderful sway to it and plenty of instruments to push the world music card to the fore but they are always as an accompaniment, never as a gimmick. “Sun, Moon and Stars” pushes the Arabic side of Latin life and is a superb instrumental track. However, outside of those two, the Celtic and new age influences are far brighter and louder than the Latin side, with the gorgeous “Manx Ayre” sounding far more Celtic than Latin – but the fusion is there.
“A Hundred Wishes”, “Breaking the Sword” and “Lost Souls” are all classic Loreena ballads – sitting somewhere on the scale between utterly touching hymn like cathartic folk songs or occasionally a little mysterious. However, the jewel of the album for me is “Ages Past, Ages Hence”. It takes the best sections of her ancient mystery side, the ballad side and her deft ability to score folk music pitch perfectly and mashes them all together to perfection. McKennitt’s voice is also on top form here too as she bellows and reaches for huge notes we often take for granted, but here it is further than she usually reaches for. It deserves to be in the top tier of her catalogue.
Whilst “Lost Souls” is really quite a safe return for out folk queen, it demonstrates that if you have perfected a formula and no one else is touching you, why change it? It’s less immediate than some of her previous work, but Loreena McKennitt’s tales are still timeless classics.
Recommended track: Ages Past, Ages Hence