Canadian artist Sora lists Loreena McKennitt as one of her greatest musical influences, a fact that is apparent on her latest musical effort, Heartwood. A beautifully put together collection of songs that conjure up druid celebrations and ancient royal courts, the album is reminiscent of McKennitt's modern Celtic style. Inspiration aside, Sora is very much her own artist and Heartwood showcases her talents as both a singer and songwriter.
The title track is a great beginning to the album, and a wonderful introduction to Sora's artistic abilities. She has a classically beautiful voice that can be strong, airy, or sorrowful. For the most part, Heartwood's tracks are pretty, soothing songs that remind one of laughter, love, and sun-filled days. The album offers some variety with Sora delving into her dark side for a few songs.
The best of these darker tunes is “Eurydice,” a haunting song that possesses a hypnotic beat and seductive lyrics. The instrumentals on the album are also well done, blending perfectly with Sora's vocals. The violin and piano work is especially impressive on “Drift” and “Winter.” On both tracks, the music perfectly sets the tone for the listener before seamlessly weaving itself in with Sora's voice, making for wonderful pieces of audio art.
The cover art on Heartwood is a simple photo of Sora, tinted in warm shades of brown and gold with some etchings behind her. Heartwood also features an insert booklet with the lyrics for each song—something I personally find extremely helpful—as well as photographs of whimsical items such as feathers, leaves, stones, and bits of ribbon. The earthy yet enchanting look reflects the tone of the album and gives the listener a good indication of the mood Sora is trying to set.
With its powerful vocals and mesmerizing instrumentals, Heartwood is an album that will not disappoint. Long-time Celtic fans and those new to the genre should find it a satisfying listening experience.