One Eyed Fiona,
One Eyed Fiona
(self-produced, 1998)

The only thing I didn't like about One Eyed Fiona's self-titled CD is that the band is based in Apache Junction, Arizona, and it isn't likely that I'll get to hear them live any time soon.

One Eyed Fiona -- what a nifty evocative name for a band -- is Jerica Turner (violin, banjo, background vocals), her husband Chris Turner (guitar, bodhran, harmonica, snare drum, vocals and background vocals) and Mark Rice (vocals). The CD includes both traditional and original tunes written or arranged by the Turners.

Both Turners composed the opening track, "The Lost Dog Reels," and the jaunty melody sets the tone for what is to come. Jerica's performance is taut and nearly meticulous, while the bodhran pads softly under the melody line without being obtrusive. The energy continues into the next track, "Morrisons/Mist on the Mountain," with a guitar underscoring the rich tones of the violin; the bodhran adds a light accent as well. "Pretty Fair Maid" is a "soldier meets and beds a pretty maid" song, but instead of the soldier loving and leaving, the maid seems to have a bit more control of the situation. The warm and expressive vocals interweave with the violin, and the pace is urgent and exuberant without being rushed.

A snare drum beats a military tattoo in the next track, "March/Mist Covered Mountain." Jerica wrote the stately "March," which breaks into the lively traditional piece. Other notable tracks include the sets "Dowds Trip on the Mountain/Mooncoin Reel" and "TamLyn/Drowsy Maggie/Julia Delaney." Both are beautifully arranged and performed with style and verve, although I have a preference for the latter set. The pace builds until "Julia Delaney" when everything just goes wild. At the same time, the band never loses control, and the sound never gets sloppy.

"Tippin' It Up to Nancy" is about a would-be murderess who has the tables turned on her; the melody is one of those stick-in-your-head tunes, but it's a fun song, regardless. Chris's original "Southwest Sunset" easily evokes images of the Southwest with a Celtic flair. The instrumental segues smoothly into the traditional "Step It Out Mary," a song about a young woman whose father is determined to marry her off to the highest bidder. I have heard a variation of this with a United States setting and a somewhat different ending; One Eyed Fiona's version is a bit more chilling.

These and the rest of the tracks feature high-energy performances with good balance among the musicians and an overall cohesiveness to the selections and arrangements. Furthermore, the musicians sound as if they're having a grand time, and that's an important element as well.

I'm willing to bet that One Eyed Fiona is awesome live; hence my earlier disgruntlement. Pick up One Eyed Fiona for yourself, and you might find yourself contemplating airfares to Arizona.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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