McKennitt can’t completely escape the weird form of rock-stardom she’s achieved, in which she’s bigger than your average corseted busker but nothing that could ever knock Enya out of orbit. She’s back into roots stuff here, Celtic mope-folk whose bummer vibe makes Yiddish wail-a-thons sound like Disney soundtracking, and what do the Irish have to be so bummed about nowadays, unless we’re talking about their crashed economy? But never mind that; it’s Frodo wannabes she’s chasing here, after all, with slow instrumental traditionals like “Brian Boru’s March” and the half-whispered falsetto of “Down By the Sally Gardens.” “The Star of the County Down” is possessed of a comparative pulse, the stompy breed of stern-and-stubborn sing-along that brings out those knowing smiles on Guinness-gulpers, but then comes the title track in funereal half-there downbeat. “Look, Braveheart’s head on a pike, just think!” this stuff seems to want to say, as I cover my ears, righteously unmoved.
B —Eric W. Saeger