The Canadian singer/songwriter's first full-length collection of original material since 2006's Ancient Muse, Lost Souls sees Loreena McKennitt delivering another richly detailed and alluringly cinematic set of worldbeat-infused, modern-folk pieces that hearken back to career-defining albums like The Visit, The Mask and Mirror, and The Book of Secrets. It's the latter LP that's echoed the most -- McKennitt states in the liner notes that a number of the songs were written around the time of The Visit -- with the elegant balladry of "Lost Souls" and the moving Canadian Forces Central Band and Stratford Concert Choir-assisted "Breaking of the Sword" invoking that album's emotional high point: Her lush musical rendering of the Alfred Tennyson poem "Lady of Shalott." Once again, McKennitt looks to poetry for inspiration, with W.B.Yeats and John Keats providing the narratives for "The Ballad of the Fox Hunter" and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," respectively, while she cites the works of authors Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees) and Ronald Wright (A Short History of Progress) as the motivation behind the evocative and ecologically minded "Ages Past, Ages Hence." While McKennitt continues to incorporate Galician and Middle Eastern themes into her work -- opener "Spanish Guitars & Night Plazas" builds to a lovely flamenco crescendo, and "Sun, Moon, & Stars" invokes the sights, sounds, and smells of a Moroccan bazaar -- the bulk of Lost Souls is spent wandering the English countryside. It makes sense, as McKennitt's early work was predominantly Celtic in nature, and despite a dizzying area of exotic instrumentation -- nyckelharpa, oud, kanoun, lyra, hurdy gurdy, etc. -- it's clear that the rolling hills and temperate moors of the United Kingdom, as well as the extensive vistas of her Canadian homeland, are where her heart resides.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger