Iarla Ó Lionáird

I Could Read the Sky

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Iarla Ó Lionáird's second solo album is a significant departure from the first. For one thing, I Could Read the Sky is a film soundtrack (or, in the currently more popular phrase, a collection of "music written for and inspired by the film"), so it's necessarily more impressionistic and programmatic. But it's also quite a bit more beat driven than its predecessor, and, therefore, a bit more reminiscent of Ó Lionáird's work with his regular band, the Afro Celt Sound System. Even with the beats, the music is invariably moody and generally downtempo. Ó Lionáird's haunting voice has much to do with that overall mood; on the very dark "Iron and Gold" and his arresting version of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave," his voice soars like a bird over a rocky and twilit landscape of synthesized chordal washes and tweaked drum loops. But the judicious use of eerie spoken-word samples ("Knuckles to the Marrow," "In England") contribute to that ambience, as well. Other highlight tracks include a typically impeccable performance of "The Old Road to Garry" by fiddler Martin Hyes and guitarist Dennis Cahill. A surprise disappointment is Sinéad O'Connor's anemic performance of "Roisin Dubh." Highly recommended overall.

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