This most recent release of Ireland's foremost cultural ambassadors is a departure from other guest albums which had a number of instrumental tracks. This album has only one instrumental track and 13 tracks with vocals. The album reflects the joys and heartache of a woman's heart in a series of tracks performed by female artists from the fields of jazz, traditional, pop, country and folk.
It is a well balanced album contains tracks of sadness and heartache but it is also balanced with light hearted tracks to give the album balance. Many of the of the tracks are traditional with arrangements by Paddy Moloney and the respective artists. The first track proves to be interesting with actress Brenda Fricker reading a poem written by William Butler Yeats, Never Give All The Heart, with accompaniment by Anúna and the Chieftains arranged by Moloney. It is a haunting track and it is a first for a Chieftains album to include spoken dialogue as part of the presentation.
Bonnie Raitt lends her well known raspy deep voice to the lament, A Stór Mo Chroí. Matt Molloy's haunting, wispy flute playing adds atmosphere and depth to the track. Raitt sings the song with deep emotion as if she has been in the woman's shoes. Another track of note is Magdalene Laundries, an original composition by Joni Mitchell, regarding a dark aspect of recent Irish history where young, unwed pregnant women were sent to the convents until they gave birth and their children would often be sent to the United States or Canada to be adopted. The track reflects a young woman's feelings and impressions of the "magdalene laundries". A number of the women who were sent to the convents died of complications of childbirth or illness. Many were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetaries of these convents and this song laments the harshness of their passing.
Mary Chapin Carpenter does a wonderful job of singing in Gaelic on the track Deserted Soldier (An Saighdiúir Treigthe) . Loreena McKennitt is haunting in her selection of Ye Rambling Boys of Pleasure with the uillean pipes and harp complimenting her distinctive voice. Akiko Yano brings another aspect to the Chieftains repertoire that has not been explored since the Chieftains visit to China. Yano and Moloney have managed to weave an intriguing tune incorporating Japanese influences with Irish traditional music. Sake In The Jar is worth a listen as it is a very interesting mix of Japanese culture and reflects a relationship between music between the Asian and Celtic cultures. Diana Krall offers an interesting introspective of Danny Boy by incorporating elements of jazz and gospel music into the melody of Danny Boy. The Corrs offer a refreshing pop influence to I Know My Love and Raitt's raspy voice does justice to the old ballad, I Know My Love. Fine performances are also delivered by The Rankins, Sissel, Joan Osborne, Sinéad O'Connor, and Natalie Merchant.
All in all it is a strong album but I have to say the tracks that stick out in my name as among my favorites would have to be Sake In The Jar, I Know My Love, and A Stór Mo Chroí. The album is well mixed and balanced and is worth a listen to.