Susan McKeown, Sweet Liberty

Colin Irwin

By Colin Irwin

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Sweet Liberty

Susan McKeown
A wonderful interpreter of traditional Irish song’s finest album.

Born in Dublin, Susan McKeown's singing career didn't seriously get underway until she formed the band Chanting House with Eileen Ivers and Seamus Egan. She gradually established herself as a wonderful interpreter of traditional song with a keen interest in setting the music to modern styles. This is her finest work, gently blending the Irishness at the album's core with exhilarating bursts of other musical styles. Tartit, a group from Mali, feature on the Irish/African “Oro Mhile Gra (A Thousand Time My Love)”; Mexican mariachi trumpeters light up an extraordinary version of “Eggs in Her Basket.” Most devastating of all is “When I Was on Horseback,” a heartbreaking song about a funeral procession featuring the eerie fiddle playing of the great Johnny Cunningham. Recorded just before Christmas, 2003, it was to be the last time Johnny ever picked up a bow — he collapsed and died later that day, giving an already moving album even more poignancy.