Maire Brennan,
Misty Eyed Adventures
(Atlantic, 1994)

What's going on here? The strong female voice of Clannad, Enya's older sister Maire, giving us Joni Mitchell covers and percussive cacophony? What happened to "Harry's Song"? Why so many questions to start a review?

Misty Eyed Adventures is just the sort of disc to provoke such queries. After all, for those who know Brennan only through her work with Clannad, some of the choices herein seem a bit, well, outre. Even those who have had the privilege of hearing her eponymously titled first solo project, Maire, will discover some surprises here.

Fortunately, the offerings here are almostly uniformly good news. If there is a better opening song for an album (well, this album, anyway) than "The Days of the Dancing," I don't know what it is. This romp is light and airy lyrically, but wild and free musically, with backing vocals, mixed percussion and button accordion scurrying every which way in a celebration of music as an excuse to kick up one's heels. The following "Place Among the Stones" is more elegiac, with pipes and shimmering keyboards slowing the tempo down to a whisper. Several tunes later, "Pilgrim's Way" unfolds as a refrain round/verse experiment which serves the lyrical journey well. Next up is "Big Yellow Taxi," the aforementioned Mitchell cover. Though the tempo is just a touch slow for my taste, Brennan's voice tracks with authority through the former hit, resonating at times with the same strength found in the work of Mary Fahl on old October Project discs.

Using a call and response approach, "The Mighty One" begins as a hypnotic exercise, vocally lush, but instrumentally lean. As the song progresses, English and Gaelic chants are exchanged to propel the song forward towards its enigmatic close. The next song, "Heroes," returns to raucous celebration, and is the exercise in percussive excess mentioned earlier. It begins as a lilt and accelerates towards a shout, driven by Nigel Thomas' determination to turn anything within reach into a drum. The disc closes with "Eirigh Suas a Stoirin," a love song from Donegal which serves as a final showcase of the formidable vocal talents of Brennan.

Thus, Misty Eyed Adventures starts with a shout, ends with a whisper, and covers a lot of ground along the way. This is a difficult disc to classify, genre-wise, but for the listener who is willing to stretch a little in what they listen to, there are ample rewards here for the intrepid.

[ by Gilbert Head ]

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