Album | Loreena McKennitt – The Road Back Home

Home. Beginnings. Roots. Memories. These form the common thread that weaves through Loreena McKennitt’s latest musical treasure chest, The Road Back Home. In it, she invites us to look back on her earliest days on the folk scene and lend an ear to some of her first songs – many of which have never previously been recorded – and more.

This album is hugely evocative. Close your eyes and let it sweep you away to lush green meadows, craggy mountains, and cliffs with waves crashing below. Imagine tendrils of mist creeping over the grass, dense forests, simple village life and the sun breaking over the horizon. True to the essence of folk, each song tells a story, tales of love, longing, heartbreak and inner strength, brought to us by McKennitt’s iconic voice.

‘Searching for Lambs’ eases in gently, mysteriously, seating the listener by the fireside as the singer reminisces. The melancholy of the cello line is reflected in ‘Bonny Portmore’ and ‘On A Bright May’, gorgeous vocals complemented by the harp and flute so often heard in Celtic tunes.

McKennitt also offers us rousing tavern songs like ‘As I Roved Out’, the simple country dance of ‘Mary & The Soldier’, and the swirling bodhrán-driven reels of ‘Custom Gap’ and ‘Salvation Contradiction’.

‘Greystones’ slows things right down, the simple flute and guitar lines conjuring up images of a village in the morning light surrounded by rolling hills, before ‘The Star of the County Down’ invites us back into the tavern for a wonderfully rhythmic communal singalong.

Almost last but not least is the pure beauty of ‘Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór’, which layers up gradually, the gorgeous harp intro, wistful Irish flute, and warm cello bringing a tear to my eye (I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true!).

Continuing on seamlessly in the same track, the album ends with a communal rendition of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’, reminiscent of one of the Winnipeg Folk Festivals McKennitt performed at in her early musical days, which closed with all the artists linking arms on stage to sing the song.

So we have come full circle, from the group gathered at the fireside to the joining of voices. This sense of community is at the very heart of both folk music and the traditional concept of home. I absolutely love Celtic music, so for me this album, which radiates a wonderful warmth, offers ten tracks of comfort listening at its best.