Canadian Celtic/new age/worldbeat architect Loreena McKennitt may be an odd choice for the legendary jazz label that released benchmark albums from Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, but Verve may have been moved by the undeniably talented harpist/composer/vocalist's large collection of globe-spanning gold, platinum, and multi-platinum sales awards. McKennitt's records (this is her first set of new material since 1997's Book of Secrets) tend to play like independent soundtracks to National Geographic documentaries -- kind of like a more ornate, expensive version of Dead Can Dance. An Ancient Muse may break little new ground for McKennitt, but it won't disappoint longtime fans. Her fascination with Celtic, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern instrumentation (hurdy-gurdy, nyckelharpa, kanoun, uilleann pipes, bouzouki, lyra, and oud) and her preoccupation with mythology and poetry have won her great favor with the new age/adult alternative crowd, and rightly so, as Irish-tinged ballads such as "Never-Ending Road (Amhrán Duit)" and "Penelope's Song" are just Enya songs with more instruments than vocal tracks. Her penchant for quality instrumentals, in this case "Kecharitomene" and "Sacred Shabbat," sets her apart from the more stereotypical new age artists like David Arkenstone and John Tesh, and her extensive, diary-like liner notes invoke ancient archeological sites and obscure Rumi poetry without coming off as too self-absorbed. This CD was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger