Susan McKeown's Blackthorn
Blackthorn: Irish Love Songs
World Village (www.worldvillagemusic.com)
Her voice can penetrate like a newly sharpened knife blade, but since this is a selection of love songs, Susan McKeown turns up the tenderness as well. She no doubt knows that albums of traditional Irish music are nothing new, so she makes these songs her own. Whether soaring gracefully through the Venezuelan harp-accompanied "Oiche Fa Fheil," accentuating the sing-along chipperness of "Do In Du" or laying bare unfettered emotion on "The Lass of Aughrim," McKeown rises above the ordinary. The arrangements and instrumentation borrow from Basque, Latin, Scottish and other non-Irish sources (even pre-Colombian Amerindian), accounting for an unforced cross-cultural quality that is another of this recording's strengths. Brighter in feel and more uplifting than McKeown's previous Sweet Liberty, Blackthorn uses similar approaches of sparse instrumental backing to let the vocals really glow in addition to giving traditional Irish music just a hint of a more global reach. The liner notes do some philosophical waxing on the nature of the album's subject matter, though it is the music that makes it clear these are love songs to truly love. - Tom Orr
CD available from cdRoots
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