TO DRIVE THE COLD WINTER AWAY, one of Loreena McKennitt's first recordings, was originally released in 1987, but this 2004 reissue includes remastered sound, new liner notes, and a DVD featuring videos and a documentary about the artist. Though this is an album of Christmas music, it bears no relation to warm, feel-good holiday offerings by the likes of Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole.
Instead, TO DRIVE THE COLD WINTER AWAY draws on old-world, traditional holiday songs from Scotland, Ireland, and England, and the overall feel of the music is haunting and melancholic. McKennitt accompanies herself on harp on each of these ballads and carols, and her clear, dramatic soprano lilts and floats through the minor-key melodies. The starkness of the recording, rich in resonance and ambience, is perfectly suited to the music, a fact highlighted by the reissue's crystalline sound. Though more appropriate for a chilly, wintry, spiritual quest on the Moors than a yuletide family gathering by the fire, McKennitt's project is a striking glimpse into the spirit of Christmas past.