Album Review: The Road Back Home by Loreena McKennit

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2024

I had the pleasure of diving into Loreena McKennitt's latest album, The Road Back Home, it's nothing short of a mesmerizing journey through time, tradition, and the warmth of community. The Road Back Home is a nostalgic embrace of simpler times, capturing the essence of local performances that inspired her early in her career. This collection of 10 songs, some dating back to her folk circuit days, is a testament to her unwavering connection to Celtic music.

Twice Grammy-nominated, 14 million albums sold worldwide, Loreena McKennit recalls vividly,

“My time in Winnipeg would lead me to perform at folk clubs and one of the earliest Winnipeg Folk Festivals. We all got lost in the magic of the music which infused the summer night air. On Sunday night when the festival came to an end, all the artists gathered on stage, linking arms to sing 'Wild Mountain Thyme.' I wonder if it’s naive or ambitious to encourage this, you know, people to sing along with me. It was just lovely when people felt they had the confidence to sing out with us. It is to provide an opportunity to sing together, which they may have not had for a very long time, if at all.” 

The Road Back Home | Available 3/8/24

The Road Back Home is a collection of 10 songs to whistle while you work, songs such as "Star of the County Down" or "On a Bright May Morning." Songs about nature and songs about community gathered in Loreena McKennit’s light complete the collection. Familiar to Celtic music fans, you may recognize "Bonnie Portmore" or "As I Roved Out." The opening track, "Greystones," features the feadog for the initiated, a whistle that sounds like a flute for those wanting to learn more. 

Jason Hann of the String Cheese Incident recounted his time touring with Loreena McKennit through Canada in 2005. He also recorded with her on her 2006 album, Ancient Muse. “Loreena is amazing to work with. She ran the show, coordinated rehearsals, directed a video shoot, and she can get into the mode of her songs in an instant.” Many musicians can testify to Loreena’s work ethic and collaborative mastery.

In addition to her musical career, Loreena McKennit has been recognized for her philanthropic initiatives including the Falstaff Family Centre, and the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety, and she has been named an Honorary Colonel of the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

Rather than attending veterinary school, she took her education money to begin her in-depth dive into Celtic music. She may not be properly trained in harp but the angelic voices allow her to play well enough to accompany her singing masterfully. She’s played a bit of whistle, and a little accordion, but Loreena’s strongest instruments are her voice and piano. She can take you through the solitude of winter into the blossoming of summer in one performance. 

Loreena McKennit | Photo by Richard Haughton

The Road Back Home came about as a consideration for her musical and sustainable footprint.
“In some ways, this project is an accidental recording because a year ago at this time, it wasn’t on my radar or the calendar, shall we say. It was more of a response. We were planning to be in Europe touring but considering COVID, I decided to delay that a year. I said, what else could we do this summer? I could round up the local Celtic group called the Bookends and work up a smaller set that we could perform at local folk festivals here in Southern Ontario. This Celtic group lives in Stratford, whereas the other musicians I tour with - one lives in Los Angeles, three live in the U.K. one in Toronto, and so on. It’s much more difficult to pull them together. Just before we left to do these shows I thought there may be an argument to be recording these. More of a field recording than what I would call a live recording because it is traditional music. It’s where I began my career, it is falling in love with Celtic music all over again.

In this day and age, we’ve had various discussions about… Is there a way we can be touring? The goal is to be as responsible as possible as it pertains to the climate and the environment. There’s not a lot of room to move. In Europe, they seem to be a bit more developed. They offer certain lighting packages and buses, although, you know, I think Willie Nelson has the right idea. Some years ago, he was running on biodiesel buses but it’s still very hard to put the pieces together and still do the musical expressions that I do. For example, we have tried asking the promoters not to give us bottled water. I mean, that is just a small so-called drop in the bucket of what’s involved. It’s hard to tour and not have some kind of environmental footprint.” - Loreena McKennit

Loreena McKennit | photo by John Fearnall

Buy directly from the artist. Bridge the generational gaps. Be the good you wish to see in the world. The Road Back Home captures the magic of grassroots in action and good ol' community values. There is depth in the simplicity. Tis a gift to be simple! 

The Road Back Home will be released on March 8th, 2024


  1. Searching for Lambs (3:32)
  2. Mary & The Soldier (4:04)
  3. On a Bright May Morning (4:33)
  4. As I Roved Out (4:54)
  5. Custom Gap (3:56)
  6. Bonny Portmore (3:42)
  7. Greystones (3:32)
  8. The Star of the County Down (3:42)
  9. Salvation Contradiction (4:22)
  10. Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór/Wild Mountain Thyme (6:15)