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Sean-Nós Nua CD Cover
Image © Sinéad O'Connor 2002 
 

(12 October 2002) Sean-Nós Nua (Vanguard (USA) 79724-2, 2002) is the breathtaking new album by Sinéad O'Connor. The album whose title is roughly translated from the Irish as "old style new way" features a collection of traditional ballad and folk songs. Produced by Sinéad O'Connor, Donal Lunny (Máire Brennan and highly respected musician) and Adrian Sherwood (Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails and The Cure), the album also features performances by an array of skilled contemporary folk musicians including the Waterboys' Steve Wickham (fiddle), Sharon Shannon (accordion), Cora Venus Lunny (classical violin) and Rob O'Gheibheannaigh (whistle and banjo), and a duet with Christy Moore.

Exhibiting a determination and creativity characateristic of the Irish, Sinéad O'Connor has never feared to approach different musical styles. In fact, as an artist, she has tackled everything from jazz to rock and has lent her voice to various "world" and "electronica" porjects (including Afro-Celt Sound System, Conjure One (review), and the soon-to-be-released Massive Attack album). However, with Sean-Nós Nua, Sinead's voice finds an affinity with the music that has never been heard before. Singing the songs of her own culture, Sinéad's voice reaches new and sublime heights.

Despite her sometimes colorful public image, it would be difficult to deny that Sinéad O'Connor is one of the most gifted singers of our time. Like Annie Lennox or Joni Mitchell, Sinéad is that rare performer whose voice is singularly her own, possessing a quality that can only be described as "unearthly."

At times on Sean-Nós Nua, Sinéad's performance is so evocative that it reaches the level of hallucinogenic. Her voice seems to embody the fears and desires of thousands of people before her. Although some fans may be slightly surprised by the direction Sinéad O'Connor has taken, they really owe it to themselves to sit down and take a listen to what is an exquisitely crafted musical recording.

The Irish have a penchant for writing songs that entwine the issues of deep love and deep loss. Songs like the tender and forelorn "Peggy Gordon" and the ever-lovely "The Moorlough Shore" feel as though they were specifically written with Sinéad's voice in mind--and her grasp of the emotional content is such that Sinéad is able to generate massive chills in the listener through her vocal delivery.

Other tracks, including "Her Mantle So Green" and "The Parting Glass" are more joyful pieces that will inspire within any listener the desire to immediately book a flight on Aer Lingus for a trip to Ireland. Again, Sinéad knows her material and fantastically animates these songs with her own unique style.

It is also a pleasure to hear Sinéad sing in her native tongue on two tracks: the assertive "Oro, SeDo Bheatha Bhaile"--a song about the legendary Irish female pirate, Grace O'Malley--and the melodic "Baidin Fheilimi"--which tells the sad fate of the fisherman Fheilimy, whose little boat was wrecked off the island of Tory. Other well-known songs like "Molly Mallone," "Paddy's Lament," and "My Lagan Love" are given perfect treatment by Sinéad O'Connor.

Sean-Nós Nua will, no-doubt, appeal to fans of traditional Irish music. However, Sinéad O'Connor has done the world a large favor by reinterpreting these songs for a more modern and younger audience. After listening to Sean Nos Nua, it is not hard to see why Sinéad O'Connor has remained a formidable musical talent after so many years, and why the songs of Ireland are still so intriguing after so many years.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Like previous albums by Sinéad O'Connor, Sean-Nós Nua will delight our readers. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this one is a must listen!

 
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