Right now, I am sitting here, in the middle of the night, listening to Loreena McKennitt's new album An Ancient Muse which will hit stores on November 21st. And no, I didn't download and steal it off the internet - I am friends with people who work at the campus radio station and I'm borrowing their copy. There is a physical CD in my hand right now... which I will be sad to hand back to them.
This is McKennitt's first studio album since her 1997 recording Book of Secrets, and her first CD since the Live in Paris and Toronto release in 1999. An Ancient Muse has been highly anticipated, and long in coming (especially considering how prolific McKennitt was during the 1990s). The reasons for this delay are likely highly personal, and are probably related to the death of her fiance in 1999 - so I don't think we need to talk about it too much. Needless to say though, I nearly jumped for joy when I first heard McKennitt had re-entered the recording studio.
An Ancient Muse is no departure from McKennitt's signature style, and will not disappoint her die hard fans. While perhaps nothing new stylistically, the music is soulful, beautiful, and has a depth often lacking from that by other artists classified as "World Music." People who know me well understand that I have an absolute hatred for most of the New Age/World genre (voicing my distaste for Enya quite loudly on many occasions), but McKennitt is a true artist whose phrasing and lyrics still blow my mind. Comparing McKennitt to Enya is like comparing Champagne to a wine cooler.
Caravanservai, the third track off the new album, is a prime example of everything she does right. It embodies an energy which I can't begin to describe. Beneath A Phrygian Sky, the eighth track, also just seems to pull me in deeper.
The only thing I can think to say as a minus to the album is that it really does sound quite a bit like her previous two studio releases (Book of Secrets and Mask and Mirror). This is a minor complaint though, as (quite frankly) I love those two albums. Also, considering we haven't heard from her in quite some time, it may have been shocking for many if her new album had been anything other than an evolution from her prior work.
McKennitt's music is, in my opinion, best described as night time music. There is a darkness to it which to me is best experienced under moon and starlight. I've waited almost a decade for this album, and I am not disappointed one damned bit. Her voice is haunting, the arrangements wonderful, and every song pulls at me.
Sure, I've already ripped this to my MP3 player, but I'll be picking up a copy as soon as possible... and I recommend that everyone else do so as well.
I think with my christmas money, or perhaps as a christmas present to myself I'll buy one or more of her cds. While I disagree with you on whether Enya is worth listening to, I like McKennitt a lot more.