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Sean Nos-Nua – Sinead O’Connor

Vanguard Records 79724-2

In 1982, Van Morrison released Beautiful Vision, which featured
antiquated Celtic melodies masked in synthesizer washes, while the lyrical
content evinced religious, cathartic introspection. The album featured some
of Morrison's most cerebral and personal exegeses of his combined troika:
love, religion, and life.

Sinead O'Connor's latest release, the aptly titled Sean Nos-Nua,
saliently follows Morrison down those idyllic backwoods of individual
examination. However, as one can expect with OConnor, she still remains
wholly individualistic. Rather than reconstituting Morrison's discoveries,
she instead tackles the emotionally insipid genre of Irish singing known as
"sean nos" and creates a modern rendering: "sean-nos nua" or "old-style

With extremely atmospheric, yet caliginous arrangements, O'Connor patently
signals the "nua". "Peggy Gordon", replete with strings and synthesizers,
sounds far more relevant than the Alan Lomax recordings of Irish singing;
where pub goers sing in a constant rhythm more for dancing then following
the story. As modern listeners, the slowed style doesn't sound like "sexing
up", as O'Connor labeled the approach, as much as it simply sounds more
appropriate for modernity.

These arrangements allow O'Connor the freedom for more modern considerations
of emotion, and a re-examination of content. The traditional Irish ballad
"Lord Baker" has always contained references to the Song of Solomon and the
union between humanity and God. O'Connor's angelic, lachrymose delivery
exposes and explores the spiritual specter within the lyricism. As such, the
aphorisms of "Lord Baker" are no longer hidden, but offered to a modern
world desperately trying to comprehend the role of religion in a welter of

Other themes rise to the surface on Sean-Nos Nua, such as lesbian
love, feminine strength and God's humanism; issues which listeners would
unequivocally miss in listening to the great Seamus Ennis delivery of these
tales. In exposing the existence of such modern themes in antiquated songs,
O'Connor reveals how humanity has conceivably lived with the same
reoccurring dilemmas, of trying to locate meaning and understanding in a
world of confusion. The events in an epoch merely accentuate our respective

As a result, O'Connor's success becomes twofold. She has returned to her
roots, yet done so with a desire to expose the literary themes which
currently comprise her world view. With the confluence of style and content,
of stories and slowly moving ethereal expositions, OConnor has revealed the
music's relevance as well. Something Van Morrison might have a difficult time

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