Moya Brennan and Cormac De Barra has a great “Affinity”

Brennan, De Barra Have Great Affinity
Brennan, De Barra Have Great Affinity
It seems fitting that the latest collaboration between Moya Brennan, the queen of Celtic music, Cormac De Barra, renowned harp virtuoso, is called 'Affinity.' The album, a cozy weave of voice, harp and light atmospherics, shows the affinity the two have for one another in this easy musical conversation.

“When we did 'Voices and Harps 1' two years ago, we were feeling our way,” Brennan admits as we discuss the chemistry she has with De Barra.

“With one album under our belt and doing all these live shows together, it was just effortless recording with him.”

This album is a pleasant surprise to fans of Brennan, who were expecting a Clannad reunion album later this year after that group launched a highly successful comeback.

 “Last year Clannad were supposed to be doing an album, but there was all sorts of scheduling things that kept us from releasing it,” says Brennan.

“Cormac and I pushed back our album for this until we finally agreed to forge ahead. We started laying out the bones of the album for a week in January and got back into the studio in March. We then had the whole thing finished it in 10 days. It’s unbelievable.”

'Affinity' has a light yet zesty breeze running through it, the easy collaboration on full display between the two artists. Brennan, as usual, is in fine voice, and the trademark multi-layered effect you’ve grown to love with her work in Clannad is all throughout the album.

The Gaelic song “Suas Sios,” the album closer, layers a Gaelic chant on a soft, shifting jazzy beat.

Their cover of Christopher Cross’s light rock hit “Sailing” is creating quite a buzz online.

“Aisling and I were coming back from a gig in Cork and I joked that somewhere in this three hour journey the right song would show up on the radio for me to cover,” Brennan says.

“We were about a mile from home when that song came on! I called Cormac all excited. We went downstairs to the studio and it felt like a glove. We had it recorded just like that.”

'Affinity' proved to be a bit of a family affair as Aisling Jarvis, Brennan’s daughter, engineered the album.

“Aisling is great; she is up for anything,” Brennan says with no small measure of motherly pride.

“It was very comfortable -- my daughter is there, it is in my house. We gave it to (Irish producer and mixer) John Reynolds, who just happened to have a two week window to mix this in between his work with Sinead O’Connor. John said there was very little tweaking he had to do when he got the album, which I think is a great testament to Aisling’s skill.”

Brennan says she would always be able to find Jarvis in the home studio as a child.

“She would go downstairs and mess with the computers in our studio because you know how kids are glued to computers,” she says.

“She was always interested in engineering things even before she got her diploma in it. Kids  nowadays don’t seem to have the learning barriers with computers that the rest of us do!”

Brennan promises that I’ll be “sick of her” this year, with so many projects in the pipeline.

Clannad set a release date of September 23 for their new disc, which will be followed by a series of East and West Coast shows.

“The record definitely has the classic Clannad songs but there are these neat, juicy, new things on it as well,” she says.

“We have had Duke Special sitting in with us on one track and we worked with the author Colum McCann on one track. He did a synopsis of his book TransAtlantic that we set to music. I’m very
pleased with how it came about.

“In fact, when we’re done with this interview, I’m going to join the boys and finish the thing off! We have 18 tracks we are working on. There is too much material because we can’t choose, so that’s a good sign.”

Brennan is loving the easiness with this band of family members that comes with maturity.

“We are past the point where we are walking on eggshells with one another,” she says.

“Everyone is sober, everyone is taking care of themselves, we’re not going until three or four in the morning, so it’s a great vibe.”

Clannad will make stops in Australia and New Zealand before coming back here around Thanksgiving for a Christmas show. Since Brennan’s Christmas CD is one of my all-time favorites, this news comes as musical mistletoe!

Until then, you can check out the wonderful 'Affinity' on voicesandharps.com.

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