Susan McKeown, Lowlands

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

An Irish singer who lives in New York, McKeown has a knack for exploring unusual corners of the Celtic tradition while still populating her albums with enduring favorites. Even better, McKeown has a knack for unconventional arrangements: she uses the kora (West African lute- harp), erhu (Chinese fiddle) and Indian tabla to good effect, and the beautiful song "The Snows They Melt the Soonest" sports the singular fiddling of the late Johnny Cunningham. Best of all, McKeown has a velvety voice that expresses emotion without wallowing in it. Lowlands is terrific in its own right, and even better as a lead-in to McKeown's latest, Sweet Liberty, where a group of nomadic Tuareg women and a mariachi band are convincingly and unforgettably introduced to Celtic song.