By Stevie Connor.
On March 8, 2024, Juno Award-winning Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt, who has sustained international acclaim for over 30 years, will be releasing a new album that harkens back to the earliest days of her career and the most traditional of Celtic music.
The Road Back Home was recorded during the summer of 2023 when she performed at four folk festivals in southern Ontario. It was a return to her roots, a sort of musical winding back to where it all began. The early songs, the local musicians, the bursts of energy and spontaneity in those local performances are what inspired this new album that will now be on offer to a global audience.
Soon to be released on CD and 180g vinyl, and via digital music services including Dolby Atmos, the album features 10 songs, including many pieces that date back to McKennitt’s earliest days on the folk circuit and which have remained unrecorded until now.
The Road Back Home is an homage to what feels like simpler times, offering comfort and familiarity. It’s like going home.
Based in Stratford, Ontario since the late 1980s, several years ago McKennitt serendipitously encountered a group of local Celtic musicians. A meeting of musical minds ensued, resulting in an impromptu collaboration as part of her 2021 Christmas concerts (released in 2022 as her Under A Winter's Moon recording).
These musicians accompanied McKennitt again this summer at the Ontario folk festivals, along with her long-time band mate, cellist Caroline Lavelle. In the spirit of the tradition, one show featured an unplanned guest vocal on “Wild Mountain Thyme” from Canadian singer-songwriter James Keelaghan.
Every note performed by McKennitt and her new cohort of collaborators was recorded, capturing the deep affection and sense of community such musical events foster in the hearts of performers and folk festival devotees alike.
"There are many ways to define the word ‘home’,” observes McKennitt. “It may well be the structure in which we live, but it can also be the cultural expressions of community which somehow reach into our hearts and souls and draw us together without us completely understanding why."
Although recognized today as a cultural cross-pollinator and a ground-breaking leader of the contemporary Celtic Music scene, McKennitt's journey began in the humble folk clubs and the nascent festival scenes of her childhood home in Western Canada.
She recalls it vividly: “My time in Winnipeg would lead me to perform at folk clubs and one of the earliest Winnipeg Folk Festivals. We all got lost in the magic of the music which infused the summer night air. And on Sunday night when the festival came to an end, all the artists gathered on stage, linking arms to sing ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’."
Initially influenced by the 1960s and 1970s revival of interest in the folk music of both Ireland and England, McKennitt revelled in the recordings of the Bothy Band, Planxty, Steeleye Span and Alan Stivell, among many others. It was during these humble beginnings, including a tour of the busking pitches of Vancouver, Toronto, Dublin and London, England, that the foundations were laid for a four-decade career as a multi-platinum recording artist, entrepreneur and concert performer.
She has performed in some of the world’s most-respected and historic concert venues, from Carnegie Hall to the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain and for dignitaries including the late Queen Elizabeth II and His Majesty King Charles III, and other heads of state.
McKennitt’s eclectic Celtic blend of pop, folk and world music has sold over 14 million albums worldwide. Her recordings have achieved Gold, Platinum and multi-Platinum status in 15 countries on four continents. She has twice been nominated for a GRAMMY® Award and has won two Juno Awards, as well as a Billboard International Achievement Award. McKennitt was inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in March 2023.
In addition to her musical career, McKennitt has been recognized for a number of noteworthy philanthropic initiatives, including:
In 2004, McKennitt was awarded the Order of Canada and in 2013 was appointed Knight of the National Order of Arts and Letters of the Republic of France.
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