Perfect Time 
Artist: Maire Brennan 
Label: Word 

While the platinum-sellers Clannad certainly cannot be called obscure, somehow the Irish pop/folk pioneers never came to enjoy the name recognition of Enya, whom everyone knows as a purveyor of those ethereal, spiritually flavored, Celtic pop treats which have found their way onto radio, into film soundtracks, commercials, and into the hearts of music-lovers world wide. The stuff of legends.  
  
Maire Brennan, long time frontwoman of Clannad, and sister to the diva, has put quite some effort forth heretofore towards solo work, but only recently did she choose to focus on her (somewhat private) faith, with her Word Records release, Perfect Time. When asked what led her in this direction, Brennan speaks of her faith, and her long-term dilemma over Clannad's somewhat dubious title of "New Age." Never feeling particularly driven to record a Christian record, she pursued her career with the band, a career full of twists, turns and surprises. It was only recently that she was approached by her American manager about a gospel album. Perfect Time is the result of that meeting.  
  
The album contains a lot of great traditional numbers, many sung entirely in Maire's native tongue, Gaelic. Curiously, naggingly so, many of them, such as the title track itself, seem a little "dumbed down," shall we say? What makes much of the music in the genre so appealing is the mystery of it all-- am I stretching critical limits in assuming that the folks over at Word felt they needed to slip a little of the Point of Grace (see track 5) vibe into the mix in order to sell records at a brisker pace? Perhaps they believed that an audience weaned on Cindy Morgan would be unable to fathom the mystery of a more in-depth project? Pity thus, because there's nothing better than an authentic piece of ethnic artistry, and what we seem to have here is a mix of American praise and worship, ethereal pop, and traditional Irish musicianship. 
  
Whatever the case may be with that, there's much to love, such as the instrumental "Doon Well," a haunting, flowingly elegant number which recalls the greenery of the British Isles, and while a song on a Maire Brennan album titled "The Big Rock" seems as great a faux pas as introducing electric guitar into a Bach chorale, the catchy opener seems fresh, airy and full of life and hope. The closing instrumental is to be enjoyed as well. To sum it up, the album is enjoyable, however, here's hoping that if her career within the CCM field is to continue, she'll give us more of the creative music she's so good at, (such as tracks like "Whispered Words" on her solo album Misty Eyed Adventures) and a little less white fluff. 

If you're unfamiliar with the particular genre, this could be a good introduction to the world of modern Celtic music. Brennan has taken her own folk heritage, prevalent in the music of Clannad, taken some of the ethereality of her sister's, and added some contemporary stylings to  create an enjoyable, inspirational piece of work -- congratulations to the artist. However, if it's original creations, or just plain old traditional music you're looking for, you're better off picking through your Clannad collections. 

By Dave Landsel 

 

There has been quite a bit of coverage of this album in the Christian press here in Britain. This is probably because Maire is the singer from Clannad as well as Enya's sister. This, her third solo album, is her first in the Christian marketplace and follows her appearance on Iona's Journey Into The Morn. 

The vocals kick in immediately as the album opens, which I find  disconcerting. Maire has a beautiful voice, but it seems as if the arrangements are too weak to make much of that voice. The instrumentation suffers from the same affliction; it's well-performed but lacks any real personality. Maire plays the harp and keyboards, while others take uileann pipes, low whistles, guitars, fiddle, and bodhran - a similar list of instruments to Iona, but without the interesting arrangements of that band. 

This album is not awful, but really doesn't hold my attention for more than a couple of minutes, which is a shame as I really like Celtic music. It's good to see Maire acknowledging her Christian faith, but does that really mean the music has to be bland? 

By James Stewart