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POP
Echoes
Loreena McKennitt Returns
Loreena McKennitt Returns
A caravan journey of exotic moods and middle eastern modes Loreena McKennitt
An Ancient Muse
(Verve)
It's been nearly ten years since Loreena McKennitt has put out a CD of new music. When we interviewed her in 1997, shortly after the release of The Book of Secrets, she was getting ready to take a breather. But when her fianc é died in a boating accident the next year, her short breather turned into nine years. The exhalation can be heard in An Ancient Muse, which picks up where The Book of Secrets left off, almost without missing a beat.

The CD brims with exotic moods and middle eastern modes as she continues her fascination with that region where east and west converge. Hurdy gurdys, kanouns, percussion and bouzoukis dominate the landscape framed by Brian Hughes' morphing guitars and McKennitt's keyboard orchestrations. Her harp appears on only one track, "The English Lady and the Night," the most Celtic song on the disc, in which she adapts the words of Sir Walter Scott. Songs like "The Gates of Istanbul" and "Caravanserai" are classic McKennitt story songs, painting romantic pictures of life in the desert and poems of spiritual ecstacy.

McKennitt shies away from writing lyrics about her personal life, rather, An Ancient Muse's songs are about seeking peace and religious tolerance, with clear contemporary echoes of war in the east. The caravan journey of An Ancient Muse is one of hope and possibilities, all couched in McKennitt's global music utopia.