Album Cover: Shepherd Moons


Enya's Soothing Sounds

Wayne Robins, Staff Writer

Newsday (USA) 9 February 1992

" Shepherd Moons "

Unlike many artists who give New Age music a bad name, Enya's music is not the sound of plants growing. Her atmospheric recordings bring together two disparate realms: venerable Gaelic folk themes and contemporary studio technology.

Enya's Irish family was so traditional that they spoke Gaelic around the house. The best songs on Shepherd Moons (Reprise), which is currently No. 1 on Billboard's New Age music chart (she is the first woman to achieve that stature), are those that are sung in that ancient language. Partly, it's because the words connect spiritually rather than literally, and partly it's because of the engaging musical tracks: "Ebudae" has an assertive zing, "Book of Days" a big, unexpected pop hook.

Too many of the lyrics in English, by Enya's collaborator, Roma Ryan, have either Hallmark card sentimentality or strive to be too self-consciously poetic. "Marble Halls" attempts a medieval romanticism, complete with images of "vassals and serfs at my side." It's the kind of lyric Suzanne Vega outgrew in junior high.

You don't buy Enya's records (Shepherd Moons has sold more than 600.000, its predecessor, 1988's Watermark, 4 million) for the words out for the harmonious mood she achieves with her lofting, high-register vocals and synthesized keyboard tracks. (There are occasional musical guests - a clarinet, cornet, Uillean pipes and percussion appear in small doses on various tracks.)

The ethereal strokes of sound can be poignant. "Evacuee" is a stirring lullaby, and the single "Caribbean Blue" blends an energetic minimalist keyboard groove - like an early pop Philip Glass - with celestial harmonies (all vocal parts by Enya) that suggest the Roches. Some of the instrumentals are just simplistic, and some of Shepherd Moons won't do more than alter the colors on your mood ring. But at her best, Enya, our most accomplished digital folkie, proves that it's no sin to be soothing.

Note: Transcribed by Tomás Román.