Various Artists

Celtic Spirit [Narada]

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Compilations of Celtic music clog candle store endcaps. They're stacked in point of purchase tents adjacent to cash registers, come free with two pounds of coffee, and generally try to cash in on the music's inherent grace. Too often, though, these comps are poorly executed pretenders with a connection to Celtic music that can only be described as tenuous. Narada's Celtic Spirit is different in that it looks at Celtic music seriously, and not just commercially. It draws on the stark yet uplifting music of the early Celtic liturgy, supplementing stoic, ethereal vocal tracks from Connie Dover ("Ubi Caritas") and Áine Minogue ("Puer Natus") with the solo acoustic guitar of William Coulter ("Bí a losa, im Chroí-se") and "Be Thou My Vision," a tin whistle and piano-led number from Anjali Quartet. Sheena Wellington balances the album's echoing stillness with the warm "Christ Child's Lullaby," but the song is sequenced next to the medieval-tinged "Rosa Mystica," which Theresa Schroeder-Sheker picks out on a solitary harp. All in all, Celtic Spirit might not please the casual listener looking for some lighthearted jigs and reels. It takes its Celtic-ness seriously, and as a result brings added gravity to the set list.

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