Album Review: Moya Brennan, Canvas

Ninth solo album from Clannad chanteuse

It’s been over 35 years since Clannad broke through with ‘Harry’s Game’ – dramatically expanding the possibilities of Irish traditional music by encompassing world and classical styles, and combining them with modern studio technology. All these years later and Moya Brennan - who fronted the family group from the early 1970s – is still weaving vocal and instrumental magic.

The album’s title comes from her rediscovery of the joys of painting (the cover and artwork feature her own creations), while the songs encompass themes ranging from environmental concerns to the ravages of conflict. Words like “haunting,” “majestic” and “ethereal” come all too easily when describing this – virtually uncategorisable – sound, but in Brennan’s case they are unavoidable. A large cast of musicians includes guitarist Anto Drennan and harpist Cormac De Barra, and her pure, crystalline voice is to the forefront on ‘Portrait of My Life’ – a contemporary sounding tune with chiming guitars and African rhythms. The sampled radio static at the beginning of ‘Children Of War’ provides a chilling opening to an atmospheric, Latin-sounding tune recalling Sting’s ‘They Dance Alone’ (which traversed similar territory, paying tribute to the Chilean Mothers of the Disappeared).

Fans of her past work will be drawn to ‘Where You Belong’ and ‘Going Home’, both offering echoes of some of Clannad’s most celebrated tunes. More traditional fare comes in the shape of the largely instrumental ‘Banrion’ – the gently plucked harp, melancholy strings and massed voices hovering in the background lending it a cinematic feel. There are also sublime moments on the Irish language tunes ‘Nuair a Bhi Og’ and ‘D’on Phaiste Og’, which are firmly rooted in Brennan’s home county of Donegal.

 

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