Canadian Brenda McMorrow is a devotional kirtan artist inspired by folk melodies, world beats, and sacred Indian devotional chants. She is one of the most recent artists on White Swan Records, a music label that brought us such delights as Deva Premal and specializes in cultivating spiritual, meditative, healing music for the yoga world and beyond.
Kirtan is a participatory, “call and response form of singing” where a mantra and melody are sung by the lead singer and the crowd responds by singing it back. This type of devotional music has gained a lot of popularity in the West in recent years as more people discover how healing, uplifting, and just pure fun it can be.
Brenda McMorrow’s fourth album, My Heart Bows Down to You, features some Spanish lyrics inspired by time recently spent in Spain, Peru, and Mexico. Warren Huart produced the album and contributes guitar, mandolin, keyboard and piano on many tracks. I’ve heard a few of McMorrow’s tunes before, and was always struck by the playful lightness in her timeless and youthful voice. That playful quality jumps out from the very first track “You Are Light.”
McMorrow makes simple and elegant choices with regard to the vocal arrangements, splitting her voice into lovely and mysterious fourths and octaves. The title track “My Heart Bows Down to You” features a harmonium, upright bass, and catchy melody and lyrics that I could imagine any contemporary pop artist singing. Eventually this song shifts from the intimate feel of being just McMorrow and a few instruments to a full, rich chorus of voices, expressing the connectedness of all humanity. I also loved the more rock/bluesy attitude of “All One Song” where the vocal melody in the chorus (“it’s love…..love”) is catchy. McMorrow’s sense of pop hooks and melodies that listeners can connect to is superb.
“Grace Surrounding” also has that rootsy, Americana-influenced feel. The mandolin strumming in the background of this song gives it a momentum that helps keeps me going when I’m feeling a bit down, and I especially love when the mandolin takes more center stage later in the song. I was particularly impressed with the production on “Grace Surrounding” because there’s a lot of instrumentation in this song: guitar, mandolin, piano, and other instruments, but everything is balanced and complimentary.
My Heart Bows Down to You is just another great example of how sophisticated, well-crafted, and accessible devotional music has become. For more information about this release and her previous albums, visit her website BrendaMcMorrow.com.