Reviews of Pagan Music CDs

Pagan Music Reviews

CDs and tapes are great ways to learn new Pagan chants, as well as to have music to play while meditating or preparing for ritual. I did not buy albums of Pagan music for many years because I didn't want to buy them without hearing them. I finally started buying them anyway, and I wish I'd started doing it sooner! So I have included links here to websites where you can buy the music (for the albums that come from Serpentine Music, you will have to type in the name of the CD in the main page, as there is no way to link directly to each album).

Naturally these reviews reflect my likes and dislikes, which are probably quite different from yours. So I'll try to give you a sense of what different albums are like, so you can have an idea about which ones you might prefer. The albums reviewed here are primarily Pagan devotional music - chants and the like. I am not particularly interested in Pagan rock, folk, or other genres (although that's not a hard and fast rule).

Musical quality is very important to me. I sing in a chorus and I played violin for many years; and I can't stand it when music is performed out of tune, off rhythm, not in unison, or in an uninteresting manner. However, I won't be reviewing any CDs here that I don't like or don't find to be musically worthwhile.

If you have a Pagan chant CD you want me to know about, please feel free to email me. I don't accept copies for review, but I'm always pleased to hear about new music out there.



Ruth Barrett, The Year Is A Dancing Woman: Goddess Chants, Songs, and Invocations for the Wheel of the Year (Vol. 1 & 2)
    Vol. 1: Just what the title says. Chants make up about half of the CD, complemented by songs and both spoken and sung invocations. Many tracks are original compositions. Most tracks are a cappella while some are accompanied by percussion or dulcimer. The musical quality of this CD is lovely - Ruth Barrett has a melodic voice with a Joni Mitchell quality to it, and her ensemble creates beautiful harmonies, especially on tracks like "On That Day" and "Come Into Our Dream." Beautiful listening.
    Vol. 2: Above comments mostly also apply here, although there are no spoken pieces on this one. In this volume, "Labyrinth" and the Celtic-sounding "Hecate" are two standout songs composed by Ruth. Among the chants, I particularly like "Go to the Very Edge" and "Spiral is Turning".
*Buy*

Shawna Carol, Goddess Chant.
    Original chants, performed at length with multiple layers of vocals and instrumentals. There is a "New Age" quality to some of the tracks - both musically and lyrically - which does not always appeal to me. However, this CD includes a few lovely pieces (notably "Make Sacred Space" and "Sacred Pleasure"). *Listen & Buy*

Chants for Peace Project, Home to the River of Love
    A collection of thirty chants celebrating the earth, community, and peace. This is primarily a teaching CD; most of the chants are performed briefly (1-2 minutes long) with some basic harmonies. I was pleased to discover that the vast majority of the chants were new to me, and I know I will want to use many of them in ritual. They are performed by a mix of professional and non-professional singers; what is lost in sound quality is made up for by the comfortable, home-y vibe. In addition to this recording's general appeal, I have a feeling it would be very much enjoyed by families with children. Proceeds from the sales of this CD benefit youth peacemaking conferences. *Listen & Buy*

T. Thorn Coyle & Sharon Knight, Songs for the Waning Year
    An excellent collection of Pagan chants with Old World atmosphere and New World soul. Chants are performed with good musical quality, by mostly female vocals with chorus backing and instrumentals (drums, guitar) on some pieces. Thematically, the songs focus on the "darkening" time of the year (particularly Samhain and Yule); there are several ancestor chants and a number of devotional pieces honoring a number of different gods/goddesses (e.g. Hecate, the Morrigan, Ereshkigal, Osiris). Musically, the chants are complex enough to be interesting for singers, but straightforward enough to teach to a general audience. (My only small quibble is that almost all of the chants are in minor keys.) A great source of chants for ritual - I look forward to using them. *Listen & Buy*

Flight of the Hawk, Shamanic Songs and Ritual Chants
    This recording includes nine tracks of chants performed at length with vocal harmonies, drumming, and a little instrumentation here and there. The chants include well-known ones like "Sweet Surrender" and "The River She is Flowing" as well as some original pieces like "We Are the Old Ones" and "Bones." Beautiful singing and drumming create a smooth, powerful sound - lovely to listen to. *Buy*

Beverly Frederick, Through the Darkness
    A mix of songs, chants, and instrumentals created by Reclaiming members and performed by singer Beverly Frederick. Her style of singing is not really my favorite, but she is a gifted musician and this CD includes a lot of awesome chants which I hadn't heard before. Chants make up about 3/5 of the album (the rest being songs and instrumentals). Several of the songs and instrumentals are faery-related (e.g. Tam Lin, True Thomas). I particularly like "From Your Silence", "Lugh Return," and "Is, Was, and Shall Be" (a chant for the Norns). *Listen & Buy*

Beverly Frederick, In the Arms of the Wild
    This album features beautiful song arrangements, and the production quality and musical arrangements feel smoother than her earlier CD. About half the tracks are chants. You will learn some new chants (I especially like the round "Tierra Mi Cuerpo") but mostly you will probably just want to sit back and listen. *Listen & Buy*

Deborah and Rick Hamouris (and friends), Welcome to Annwfn
    You should really own this classic CD, a mixture of chant and song for rituals and celebrations. Chant-wise, it contains the classic "We Are A Circle" with all the verses; the bright, flowing "Love As A River," and the dynamic "Horned One". It has several songs with some instrumental accompaniment - I like "Bringing in the May" which layers a song over a spoken chant. Also notable is the medley of the traditional gospel "Goin' Up on the Mountain" with Harmony Grisman's "Break 'Em On Down." The other standout is DJ Hamouris' voice: you don't have to know and love her personally (as I do - full disclosure) to enjoy her lovely soprano and vibrant musicality in this recording. *Buy*

Anne Hill, Circle Round and Sing: Songs for Family Celebrations in the Goddess Traditions
    A recording of chants and songs from the book Circle Round, as well as six additional pieces that were not in the book. This CD is aimed at children and their families, and focuses more on nature reverence than on deity or "religious" matters. To my mind, there are a few songs which will not appeal to most adults but will work well for young children (e.g. the title song). Then again, there are some songs and chants here which will appeal to all ages (like the Winter Solstice chant "Return To Me, Beloved" or "The Give Away Song"). The production and performance are simple, varied, and well-done, and Anne Hill's clear, melodic voice is great for both learning and listening. The insert includes lyrics and a little background. *Listen & Buy*

Carolyn Hillyer, House of the Weavers
    From the UK, these songs and chants rooted in myth, nature, and the Goddess are performed at length, along with drum and sometimes flute or guitar. A beautiful CD with complex and original melodies, which you'll want to listen to over and over. You'll learn a few chants and songs you might want to use (I particularly like "Turquoise Lady" and "Rise of the Corn," and could also see "Night Woman" being used in ritual to powerful effect), but mostly this CD's value is in its musical quality. The liner notes are sparse, which is too bad - I could use some more background on tracks like "Egypt Dust". *Hear & Buy*

Carolyn Hillyer, Grandmother Turtle
    Whatever you thought you were expecting from a CD of songs accompanying thirteen Goddess paintings... this is something else entirely. These songs form haunting, strange-yet-familiar portraits of Goddesses you might never have imagined. I wouldn't expect to find things here that you're likely to use in ritual, but the songs are beautiful and unusual. I listen to this CD all the time and highly recommend it. My one criticism: Several of the songs (like "Songi Night Hidden," "Following First Blood") seem to be inspired by other cultures, and have words that are not in English. I wish the artist had shared something about where the songs come from and what they mean... Anyway, you all know I have a pet peeve about cultural borrowing. *Hear & Buy*

Jaiya, Beltane: Songs for the Green Time
    Here is an exception to my rule of only reviewing chant CDs, because this one is just so gorgeous. Lovely harmonizing vocals over complex instrumentals (Celtic harp, drums, penny whistle, accordion, and that otherworldly-sounding steel-drum thing - I can't remember what it's called but I love it). Includes beautiful versions of classics ("Summer is a-Coming In" and a lively version of "The Month of Maying" with a long and awesome instrumental section). Also has great original songs, notably the lyrical "Beltane Night", and the intriguing "Spiral Dance", which uses an unusual rhythmic pattern and explores ideas of entropy, patterns, and chaos through the image of the spiral. The album includes some instrumentals as well. You may not be able to use these songs in ritual unless you have a talented ensemble to practice the complex music, but this is a truly beautiful album for listening and really conveys the mood of the season. *Listen and Buy*

KIVA, Mother Wisdom
    This is a beautiful recording of chants, primarily Goddess chants (five are original and four are traditional - Hindu, Buddhist, Native American). They are sung at length by a chorus of women's voices, along with light instrumentation and quiet harmonies. To my mind, the highlight of the CD is the lovely rendition of "Aphrodite". I can't speak for the authenticity of the chants from other cultures, but they are beautifully performed. This is a meditative album which flows smoothly, with excellent musical quality. *Listen & Buy*

Libana, A Circle Is Cast
    This group performs "women's music" from a variety of cultures, and this album represents a number of chants (including several rounds); some are modern, while others are "traditional" from various cultures. I admit to not being totally happy about the cultural borrowing of many songs, and I wish they had given more historical and cultural context for the various songs they are singing - the liner notes are sparse and don't give much information. However, the music quality is consistently lovely and there are beautiful pieces on here, including some which are very interesting musically (like the Kore chant - I'm still trying to figure out the meter for that one!). *Listen & Buy*

Libana, Fire Within.
    More of these lovely women's voices singing rounds and chants from various sources - the above comments apply here as well. My personal favorites include "Treeplanter's Round", "Now I Walk In Beauty," and "Be Like A Bird." Also includes a couple of well-known Pagan "classics" - "Fire Within," "Rise Up O Flame," and "And She Will Rise." *Listen & Buy*

Lunacy, Lunacy.
    Absolutely gorgeous, very original chants and songs with lovely imagery. A cappella male vocals, sometimes with rhythm accompaniment. At times the vocals are layered to add additional parts, but the entire album is performed by two men (two fabulous musicians, I might add). Compelling, haunting music that will get stuck in your brain. Also includes a couple of queer classics (e.g. "Boys Burned Too"). Go out and buy this album right away... and it's now available on CD. *Buy*

Lunacy, Hand of Desire
    What could be better than Lunacy's debut album? Only their second album! The classic song "God Was A Woman" ("Do you remember when God was a woman? She had many, many names"); the hilarious and wonderful "Sacred Bitch"; the sexy "Ancestors' Invocation"; the mournful and beautiful "Lament for the Queer Dead"; and more. Currently being remastered on CD and will be available soon from: Lunacy's website

Michelle Mays, Fire Leap
    Great collection of Beltane-themed chants and songs, with two "Wicker Man" song remakes ("Gently Johnny" and "Fireleap"), some other chants and traditional songs ("Earth My Body" and the revisioned "Snake Woman") and some originals (notably "Evoking Beltane"). Michelle Mays' lush, textured vocals create a powerful mood. I was delighted to have this CD to listen to during the spring/ Beltane season. My only small complaint is that at times the layers of harmony and vocals make it a little hard to hear the words or the melody clearly enough to learn from. Standout tracks: "Evoking Beltane" and her lovely version of "Fire Leap" (I liked it as a fertility song but it's nice to see what she does with it here). *Listen & Buy here*

Moonrise, Songs of Love, Magic, & Other Mysteries
    As the title indicates, this CD is primarily made up of songs (i.e. not chants). But I thought it was worth including here. Many songs on this CD are sung by a cappella women's voices in lovely harmony. Some songs include instrumentals (like the jazzy, sultry "Crone Song" and the energetic, guitar-driven "Who is the Goddess"). There are several settings of British ballads and folk songs (e.g. "The Ash Grove").*Buy here* or *Listen & Buy here*.

MotherTongue, All Beings of the Earth.
    Side A of this tape offers a number of beautiful EarthSpirit chants, including several lovely rounds. The sound quality is not always so great, but the music is good. The second side has a live recording of a twenty-minute ritual performance of one chant, including improvisational descants and solos and a lot of drumming. A beautiful example of how an extremely simple chant can create a very powerful musical experience. *Buy*

MotherTongue, Fire Dance.
    This tape takes you on a journey through the Sabbats, offering a couple of songs for each one, as well as a brief spoken meditation on the meaning of each holiday. The songs include a few modern Pagan chants ("Light Is Returning") but also several longer Pagan songs ("Angel of Bells") and some adaptations of English folk songs and other traditional music ("Oak and Ash and Thorn"). There are some songs I really like, but there are others I just can't get into, even if they *are* Pagan classics (the whole "leprous White Lady" thing, for example). The musical quality is good, although the recording quality is not fabulous on some songs. *Buy*

MotherTongue, This Winter's Night.
    A lovely seasonal collection of solstice music, again including both modern and traditional music, as well as a couple of instrumentals. Great for listening. *Buy*

Moving Breath, She Changes: A Collection of Songs from Healing Circles
    This CD is made up of chants about Goddess, Spirit, and healing. They are mostly performed a cappella by a group of five women, sometimes with drum accompaniment and occasionally with simple guitar, harp, or flute instrumentals. I admit it was a little Goddess-y for me, and sometimes a little too "Native American" sounding. Nonetheless, it includes several classic chants, some in new arrangements (like "She Changes" paired with "Spider Woman"), as well as some great chants I didn't know, like "Spirit of the Wind" and "Song of Remembrance." *Listen & Buy Here* or *Buy Here*

Charlie Murphy & Jami Sieber, Canticles of Light
    In this 1984 album, two musicians perform chants and songs with Pat Wright and the Total Experience Gospel Choir, accompanied by cello, percussion, and many other instruments. The sound of the recording is warm and organic, and has a "live" feel to it. The standouts are a lovely, textured performance of "Blood of the Ancients," the soulful "Time to Love," and an extra-gospel-y "Light is Returning." The lyrics are not specifically Pagan, but are certainly relevant to Pagans. *Listen & Buy*

Becky Reardon, Follow the Motion
    Soulful, jazzy rounds about the cycles of nature. Very different from "standard Pagan chant" style... and I mean that in the best way. This CD is gorgeous for listening (beautiful performance and excellent production), although these original tunes are trickier to sing than they sound! My personal favorite tracks: "The Dark of the Moon", "Follow the Motion", and the incredibly catchy "Where Is The Moon?" *Listen & Buy*

Becky Reardon, Songs for a Walk
    (Comments for her previous CD apply here as well.) This album is vivid and evocative of a living landscape with images like "Walking in the red rock in the summer heat, looking for the shade of a cottonwood". "When the First Star Lights" is one of my favorite lullabies, and the haunting "Starbird, Soulbird" is a powerful song of mourning. Highly recommended. *Listen & Buy*

Reclaiming, Chants: Ritual Music.
    This is Reclaiming's original "teaching CD" of chants, and it's not a CD you will necessarily put on just to listen; most of the tracks are brief and presented simply. The musical quality and the recording quality are not so great, since it's meant to be a teaching tape; still, there are some nice performances. The CD is great for learning chants, and there are many classics on here, as well as some that I hadn't heard before. Definitely worth having. (If nothing else, find out the REAL version of that song you learned at the fire circle five years ago...) *Listen & Buy*

Reclaiming, Second Chants: More Ritual Music.
    This recording is considerably more mature and complex, musically speaking, than the original Chants CD. It includes more instrumentation, a few longer songs, and fuller renditions of the chants. The quality of the performances and the quality of the recording are also significantly better. This CD has some beautiful songs and chants on it (I'm especially thinking of "Inanna," "Rhiannon," and "When We Are Gone") and makes for lovely listening. *Listen & Buy*

Reclaiming, Let It Begin Now: Music From the Spiral Dance
    This CD includes songs that are traditionally performed at Reclaiming's annual Samhain Spiral Dance ritual. It includes songs of a variety of types, many of which are rather different from "standard" pagan chants: a couple of folk-rock-style invocations accompanied by guitar and bass; the old Scottish Lyke-Wake Dirge; the trance song "Set Sail"; a long litany of hopes for the new year, sung over a repeated chant; and a couple of a cappella pieces. The musical quality of the CD is good, yet somehow the album seems somewhat flat and two-dimensional to me, as though the songs lose much of their power when taken out of their ritual context. Others may feel differently. *Buy*

Jana Runnalls, Sacred Home
    A CD of earth-centered ritual chants from this British practitioner of Goddess spirituality; most chants performed at length with harmonies and "shamanic" style drumming. I wouldn't mind a little more diversity of drumming style, but the album is very enjoyable to listen to nonetheless. Some songs have a more formal British-Wiccan "feel" to them (like "Ritual": "By stone and by fire and by three times three..") while others (like "Deep Into the Earth") are a little more Pagan-revival-esque. Stand-out pieces for me include "Elemental Circle", "I Breathe the Air", and "Seeds of Life." *Listen & Buy from the UK through Jana's website, or Listen & Buy from a U.S. source*

Jana Runnalls & Katrina Brown, Lady of the Lake
    This CD is quite different from "Sacred Home". The setting is the sacred isle of Glastonbury, and this album includes songs, chants, and instrumental pieces (piano, flute, acoustic guitar) with an ethereal, mystical feel to them (I mean that in a good way - like staring across the misty lake of Avalon). Not so much a source of chants for ritual, but lovely for listening. This is one of my favorite CDs for creating atmosphere, especially for meditation or ritual when you want something soft and mystical but not cloying or New-Age-preachy. *Listen & Buy*

Shining Wheel Pagan Chorus, Chants of Balance
    This is quite a musically diverse CD from a Florida-based Pagan group; it includes original music under the headings of jazz, blues, rock, folk, gospel, "general Pagan chant," and "other"! Readers of this page may have noticed that my bias is toward chants, so it won't come as a surprise that some of the music on this CD didn't appeal to me. But don't let that stop you from buying it; it is certainly well-performed and original. I particularly liked the a cappella, gospel-influenced "Silver Rose Quarter Call," the melodic "Lady of the Wood," and "Roots and Wings." *Listen & Buy*

Abbi Spinner, Enter the Center
    This CD of original fire circle chants by Abbi Spinner offers passionate, skilled drum playing and polished, slightly distant vocals. This creates a lovely sound, although it's not quite as earthy and improvisational as one might expect from fire circle folk. This CD includes several Goddess chants, but also a number of chants which are more focused on fire circle-type themes of openness and unity (e.g. "Let the Way Be Open" or "Singing in the Circle"). My personal favorite track is the slow, trance-like "O Dark Mother." *Listen & Buy*

Spiral Rhythm, I Am
    This album offers chants performed with complex harmonies and lots of drumming; while the musical quality is not quite as tight as that of Roll of Thunder (see below), it has some great tracks. I particularly liked the recording of "Earth My Body" with a powerful descant that was new to me; "I Am," a meditative, flowing elemental song underlaid by trance-inducing drumming; and the a cappella devotional chant "Mother Mine." It's available on iTunes, or you can *Listen & Buy Here*.

Spiral Rhythm, Roll of Thunder
    This group from the southeastern U.S. sings their original chants, performed with layers of gospel-tinged harmony and usually accompanied by energetic percussion. There were a few tracks that did not appeal to me personally, but I enjoyed this CD quite a bit, and found it very professional and well-done. Highlights include the patriotic Pagan anthem "My Country/ Freedom"; the steady, trance-like "Maiden, Mother, Crone"; and the improvised "Om Jam," with beautiful vocal stylings approaching those of Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance). *Listen & Buy*

ALisa Starkweather, Daughter of the Earth
    ALisa has several CDs of songs and chants about the Goddess and women's spirituality, but I'm reviewing this one because it's my favorite. Production quality is a little uneven, but ALisa's powerful vocals carry the energy on various songs and chants which are simple and strong for teaching in ritual. Mainly vocal harmonies with drumming and rattles, but some guitar as well. I had a hard time choosing stand-out tracks because there are a lot of strong songs on here; some of my favorites are: "Love Is Our Power" (a soulful call for healing), "Dancing With My Shadow" (an equinox chant about dark and light), and "Fire, Transform Me". *Buy*


Most Bang for Your Buck:

(i.e. You will learn the most chants)

Reclaiming, Chants
Chants for Peace Project, Home to the River of Love
Moving Breath, She Changes
T. Thorn Coyle & Sharon Knight, Songs for the Waning Year

Trance-Inducing:

(i.e. Be careful if you drive while listening)

Flight of the Hawk, Shamanic Songs & Ritual Chants
KIVA, Mother Wisdom
Libana, Fire Within
Lunacy, Lunacy
Abbi Spinner, Enter the Center



Some good places to look for Pagan music CDs:
Serpentine Music
Earth Tones Studio - a huge selection, if not always much in the way of description
Circle Sanctuary's Online Music Store



You may also be interested in...

Beth's Pagan Chant Page

Beth's Pagan Chant "Top Ten" Lists



Back to Beth's Pagan Stuff