How it’s New York: Clannad have always had a huge following here, and Moya Brennan has played here with harper Cormac De Barra recently.
How it’s Irish: The family band is from Donegal, and Irish is their first language.
This review was originally published in Irish Music Magazine.
Time was, people carried pictures of Moya Brennan in their wallets. Moya’s beautiful, slightly breathy and ethereal voice charmed fans of Irish trad and those whose sole exposure to anything Irish was the cereal Lucky Charms, and of course there was that duet with Bono. In the ‘90s, Clannad even made a car commercial, and they were darlings of film scores, including “Patriot Games” in 1992 and “Last of the Mohicans” in 1992.
There hasn’t been a new studio CD from the Grammy-Award winning band since 1998, though there have been some reissues and compilations, and Moya’s had several solos and duos over the years. “Nádúr” grew out of the success of the group’s performances in 2011 in a series of concerts at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, which brought the five back together. It’s the real clan once again, siblings Moya, Ciarán and Pól Brennan, and twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan. That’s the first time the whole band have recorded together since 1989. All of this makes the release of the new CD Nadur, Irish for “nature,” a cause for celebration. In the liner notes, award-winning author Colum McCann says of the music,
“You hear it once and you feel as if you have known it a long time… Clannad—the family—have taken the local and made it universal once again.”
Most of the songs are written by different members of the family.
With 13 tracks, “Nádur” is long enough for a sink in to the atmospheric magic that is the Brennan family when they’re together. It’s a lovely, calm and melodic musical journey; songs like “Setanta” create a movie in your head. Overall, it has more of a pop, slightly new age sounds of their later recordings than the jazz-infused trad of such gems as “Clannad in Concert” and “Fuaim,” so if you don’t like that, you may not like this, but there are some more trad-sounding tunes too such as a quiet harp spotlight titled “Lámh are Lámh.” That one was written by Moya and Pól. “Cití n gCumann,” which closes the CD, is a traditional song, and one of the most beautiful on the album. I’d love a bit more of their take on trad on the next one, which I hope will be soon.
Other standouts include the mysterious-sounding march “Vellum” which opens the CD; “A Quiet Town,” which uses both Irish and Latin to tell its story. It recreates the exhileration you feel driving along the coast of Ireland; and “Hymn to Her Love,” also in several languages (I think I heard Latin). Those are all originals, and instant classics. The family’s harmonies are as close and sweet as ever, and the melodies are nuanced and shifting between keys and modes. “The Song in Your Heart” includes the line “like hearing songs from long ago.” If anyone can channel those sounds, it’s Clannad.
Clannad, Nádúr, ARC Music Inc.
13 tracks. 50.8 minutes