IONA – Another Realm (Open Sky Records OPENSKY 16)

I’ll only mention it once (and believe me, it’s a compliment) that when Clannad released their album “Robin Of Sherwood” in 1984 they were to prove inspirational not only to me but they also opened the door to a far wider demographic than ‘folk music’ could ever achieve on its own. The reason I mention this is that for lovers of this genre of music Iona have now accepted the baton of stylish folk-rock that I did not expect to see revived. Since the band formed in 1989 I have for some reason only enjoyed peripheral knowledge of their CD releases…but, from now on…no longer! When I say that music and arrangements this good are a rare commodity you should check the band out as soon as possible. If, like me you enjoy being enveloped in deep washes of sumptuous keyboards (courtesy of Dave Bainbridge), Joanne Hogg’s vocals, Frank Van Essen’s violin, Phil Barker on bass guitar and the crowning glory that is Martin Nolan’s Uilleann pipes this review may perhaps prove something of an understatement. Although not strictly ‘folk’ it is the grand, sweeping statements that captures the imagination like standing on the edge of Beachy Head peering over the precipice and wondering what it would be like to soar like a bird as you launch your self from the cliffs. OK, so perhaps my eloquence (or lack of it) in conveying my thoughts in prose is for some a bit too flowery…but I hope you get my drift? Without wishing to sound condescending, if your only preconceived idea of the band is through their association with all things ‘Christian’ then I’d like to suggest that you think again and treat the music as ‘art for art’s sake’…you won’t be disappointed. Via a process of reminiscing, the only other artists textually to come close to Iona were in the displays of showmanship by the pomp-rock band Renaissance and particularly their album “Ashes Are Burning”…which again I hope will be treated as a compliment of the highest order. Finally congratulations on the superlative artwork provided by Tim Martindale. You can actually read the lyrics with no problem and the photography is stunning. A solid pat on the back to everyone involved. As they used to say years ago, I’ll give it ten! (or five…depending which publication you’re reading).


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