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10 janvier 2007

McKennitt’s worldly tapestry

Imagine the music that might emanate from an Arabian harem tent. Seductive, silky and hypnotic. Now imagine that tent is somewhere in the north moors of Glasgow, Scotland. Now imagine Peter Gabriel is the DJ for this otherworldly affair. At this point, you’d have a pretty good taste of Loreena McKennitt’s beautiful new CD titled “An Ancient Muse.”

McKennitt is a champion for the world music set in the much the same way as Enigma or Enya, but what separates her from the pack is the unique instrumentation that’s employed on every track. There’s no synth patches or keyboard trickery with McKennitt’s music. Everything is played on an eclectic assembly of instruments that’s as diverse as the worlds they come from. Tabla, bouzouki, nyckelharpa, and hurdy gurdy all make appearances somewhere in the mix. Even if the names are unfamiliar, the soundscape is still thoroughly enjoyable.

The CD begins in the normal fashion for McKennitt, with a wordless voice that stretches out across the audio spectrum. Through the album’s centerpiece, “Beneath a Phrygian Sky,” the Canadian songstress delivers the swirling stories that sound as if they were thousands of years old. And they probably are.

Loreena McKennitt’s greatest achievement remains 1997’s hugely successful “Book of Secrets” with its inescapable “Mummer’s Dance,” and nothing here rises quite to that level. But “An Ancient Muse” takes a similar journey with the choral effects of “The English Lady and the Knight” and Celtic ballads like “Penelope’s Song.”

Listening to this CD is like circling the globe without leaving your front door. From the cultures of the Himalayas to the romantic mysticism of old England, there’s no new roads to be traveled for Loreena McKennitt on “An Ancient Muse.” But the world is a big place and there’s no shortage of influences for this unique talent.

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