A Review of the Iona CD
"A Celebration of Twenty"

"A Celebration of Twenty"
by Iona

2006 Barnaby Productions, Inc.

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 6/06
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Iona is a band that could travel about, perform in diverse locations and continuously hear this welcoming proclamation: "Ay, they'reb one of us."

Such is so because this veritable celtic symphony effortlessly floats betwixt and between numerous sub-genres of the celtic motherlode. Listen to the latest release from this long-standing group to hear musical notes and lyrics reminiscent of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Breton, Asturia, Galicia, Cornwall, Quebec, Appalachia and even Bolivia. This music is for you if your taste is firmly rooted in the sod of Ireland and Scotland, interspersed with ports of call around the globe. The members of Iona are excellent students of the expansive celtic classification.

Actually, "A Celebration of Twenty" is a recording that could be used as the 'textbook' in a 'trad and beyond' music course. Consisting of two CDs, the first, "Deep Roots," is a listen back composed of selections from previous Iona releases--a retrospective of sorts. The second, "New Growth," is material new to Iona's repertoire. In keeping with this spirit of old and new, the actual labels of these two CDs are complimentary earth tones--"Deep Roots" CD is aptly colored brown while the "New Growth" CD is a bright green. The former offers just over 66 minutes of music, the latter, 47.

There's some difficulty involved in singling out highlight selections as the pickings are bountiful. So try this: check out the opening offering (Sally Gardens/Hills of Connemara/Willy Davie/Miss Girdle) on "Deep Roots" to get a taste of the full lavor of Iona. Bass guitar and whistle blooming, followed by engaging singalong vocals and ending with dervish-paced Highland pipes. "Donald MacGillavry" must also be mentioned for both its luminous solo singing of Barbara Tresidder Ryan and how the pace of the song slowly emerges.

The initial cut (The Emigrant's Song/Saltash/Kelenn) on "New Growth" offers a fiddle opening, harmonic singing, then a transition into two primarily fiddle tunes and an end consisting of the repeat of the primary line of verse in "The Emigrant Song."

This band cares deeply about that which they perform. The vocals are precise--no dropping of vowels or slurring here--as is the instrumentation. Amidst the harmonies and solo singing comes bursts of piping, both blazing and hushed fiddle, lilting flute and animated whistle, bouzouki, guitar and more.

Just as the celtic music genus has evolved, so has the band's membership. Currently, comprised of founding members Barbara Tresidder Ryan and Bernard Argent, relative newcomers Chuck Lawhorn and Andrew Dodds have settled right in, making mighty contributions to the varied and consummate sound of the group.

Seminal celtic groups such as Altan, The Battlefield Band and others have a well-deserved reputation. I believe Iona should be mentioned alongside these distinguished groups as Ryan, Argent, Lawhorn and Dodds are on a par with the best.

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