Sunday, July 30, 2006

IONA, A Celebration of Twenty

Sigh. Pamela MURRAY Winters. Oh, well.

Washington Post, Friday, July 21, 2006; Page WE06

IONA "A Celebration of Twenty" Barnaby

FIRST, THE BAD NEWS: The packaging of IONA's two-disc retrospective of its 20-year career is nearly as confusing as your average multiple-marriage family tree. The track descriptions are perplexingly arranged. One must go to the Web to clarify that one disc contains digitally remastered tracks from the D.C.-area group's previous five albums, while the other is all-new material, the first IONA disc featuring Andrew Dodds on fiddle.

Throw either of the discs on the player, though, and you'll hear the group's through-line in Celtic and other musics played with a highly personal attachment. The current lineup, featuring founders Barbara Ryan and Bernard Argent as well as Chuck Lawhorn and Dodds, may be its strongest, but it doesn't really matter where you enter the music. An example of the group's lively eclecticism is the tune set "Laridenn/V'la le Bon Vent/Lexie McAskill," which moves seamlessly from Cape Breton to Quebec to Scotland. Elsewhere one finds music not only from Ireland, but also from the Isle of Man, Appalachia, Cajun country, Bolivia, Cornwall -- generally places where the Irish have set a dancing foot.

Guitarist Lawhorn lends some of the numbers a jazzy feel reminiscent of the English group Pentangle. Neither wholly traditional nor particularly experimental, IONA sticks to music that makes it and its listeners leap to a rhythm.

-- Pamela Winters

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