Oasis Recording, Inc.
College Park, MD (USA)
A review for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Lyn Ryder
My experience with Celtic music does not generally include traditional renditions. After listening to Iona's new album, HOLDING OUR OWN, I have a better perception of what traditional Celtic music is all about. Some of the music I had been exposed to in years past was certainly traditional, however, I was unable to recognize and appreciate it. I am more familiar with contemporary sounds of the Bothy Band, DeDaanan, and the Tannahill Weavers.
It was refreshing to hear Iona's insightful approach to the 12 tracks on HOLDING OUR OWN. At the same time, the album seemed to be imbued with a comfortable artistry that was somehow very heart-and-soul familiar. The trio, with Barbara Ryan (vocal, guitar, bodhran); Bernard Argent (flute, whistles, doumbek); and Diana McFadden (cello, bouzouki, mandolin), have performed together since 1986. Headquartered in Burke, Virginia, these artists bring combined folk and classical backgrounds to their interpretation of their music. The name Iona is taken from the island that lies between Scotland and Ireland near the southern Inner Hebrides.
Barbara, Bernard and Diana manage to create a haunting and ancient-sounding compendia of tunes using guitar, bodhran, tambourine, wooden flute, whistles, doumbek, cello, bouzouki, mandolin and fine vocals. In fact, it was pretty easy to just sit back, close my eyes and be transported to the days of the Druids; perhaps even back to the times of the bronze-age. The songs on the CD come from the Scots, Breton, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, and British traditions.
Iona's unique sound seemed quite similar to the now disbanded Alaskan group, Banish Misfortune, who made quite a name for themselves in the early 1980s. Much of the appeal of Banish Misfortune was their instrumentation, especially Lauren Pelon's use of a number of ancient instruments. Iona extracts the sound of the misty Celtic moors in their arrangements of their material. Several tracks have Gaelic vocals. There are thoughtful insert notes provided that describe the gist of each song. These notes assist listeners who otherwise would be at a disadvantage unless they spoke and understood Gaelic.
Three guest artists appear on the CD. "Atholl Highlanders/Kesh Jig" features the excellent piping of Pipe Major Robert Mitchell. Elke Baker plays fiddle on "Beth Ywr Haf I Mi/Llongau Caernarfon" and Micah Solomon plays keyboards on "Gur E Mo Ghille Dubh Dhonn."