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The Road Back Home CD

Loreena McKennitt

It was in Winnipeg in the 1970s where I first fell in love with Celtic music, nurtured in the aromatic walls of the Woodwright carpentry shop on Main Street, attended by likewise lovers of traditional music, especially that of the Bothy Band, Planxty, Steeleye Span, Maddy Prior and Alan Stivell. Some attendees originating from Ireland and England came armed with their guitars, squeezeboxes and dulcimers, while others came with their voices lifting them into sea shanties and folk songs in multiple-part harmony. We’d leave those Sunday night sessions with hearts full of joy and our arms full of borrowed vinyl which we listened to night and day.

My time in Winnipeg would lead me to perform at folk clubs and the very first Winnipeg Folk Festival, just down the road in Birds Hill Park. It was a love-fest of cross-cultural musical expressions surrounded by a food village, which at night glittered with twinkling lights. We all got lost in the magic of the music which infused the summer night air. And on Sunday night, when the festival came to an end, all the artists gathered on the stage, linking arms to sing "Wild Mountain Thyme".

As time moved on, I would take to busking at Toronto’s St Lawrence Market, Vancouver’s Granville Market, Dublin’s Grafton Street and London’s Covent Garden, bringing some of these songs on the road as companions. And eventually, my infatuation with Celtic and folk music would take me around the world.

I recently felt called to go back to revisit that time and place where I began in the 70s, being blessed to have encountered a wonderful local Celtic group to share that with. As we found ourselves performing at a handful of Ontario folk festivals in the summer of 2023, we decided to capture these performances, never knowing if we would be back this way again. Indeed, this field recording holds some of those very songs I first fell in love with, including "As I Roved Out" and "Mary and the Soldier" which I played over and over when busking. As at that first Winnipeg Folk Festival, these performances concluded with "Wild Mountain Thyme"—long-time friend James Keelaghan joined us on this song at our Owen Sound performance, as he had in those earlier Winnipeg days.

There are many ways to define the word home... the structure in which we live, but also the cultural expressions of community which somehow reach into our hearts and souls without us completely understanding why. If it is true, home is where the heart is, well my heart has returned to a place I knew I always loved. The Road Back Home. LM


1. Searching for Lambs
2. Mary & The Soldier
3. On A Bright May Morning
4. As I Roved Out
5. Custom Gap
6. Bonny Portmore
7. Greystones
8. The Star of the County Down
9. Salvation Contradiction
10. Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór / Wild Mountain Thyme