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Susan McKeown

PROPHECY (SNG) • Susan McKeown

I was thrilled to see this in my mailbox today. Susan McKeown is one of our favorite artists. Even the name of the record piqued my enthusiasm; there's something really archetypal about this superb Irish singer, a NYC resident for over a decade now. The motto of her company Sheila-Na-Gig Music says a lot: New Music from the Old World.

Not the old country, as it used to be called. Susan McKeown's vision and inspired take on Irish music has been uniquely global, as was borne out in our interview with her in the August issue of last year. (All past interviews can be found in the Puremusic archives.) But although there is one song inspired by Irish folklore, this is not an Irish music album. This is Susan McKeown and The Chanting House, which we've been waiting on a second record from since their brilliant debut, Bones. (1995, PrimeCD.)

It's not a record cheapened by marketing genres. The intermingling of folk, rock, jazz, world music, and sounds that bear no bin-worthy name rise and fall, swelling to tsunamic crescendos and falling to pin drop silences of spooky guitar loops, Michelle Kinney's haunting cello, and the depths of sorrow and glory that Susan McKeown is so uncannily capable of creating.

Prophecy is a record of many brilliant moods, all songs written or co-written by the artist. Co-producer and fine guitarist Jon Spurney co-wrote the music to the title track -- its lyrics are inspired by a W.B. Yeats passage included in the liner notes. The poetry of Emily Dickinson is also featured: Susan and her friend Natalie Merchant do a memorable duet on "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," set to music by the artist.

I am truly grateful for greatness, when I come upon it. Susan McKeown's music never fails in this regard. Check her out, and tell your friends who care about great art in a mediocre world about her. Until further notice, this fine record is available exclusively through the artist's website.  
• FG

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