Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning are a contemporary Celtic music team who have been working together for the past three decades (at least 18 albums if I counted correctly) when they are not doing solo albums or recording with other musicians (Phil Keaggy in the case of Johnson and Nightnoise in regards to Dunning). But their music together shines brightly. It is often inspired by the fantasy fiction writings of author Stephen R. Lawhead, who makes up characters from the distant past (or perhaps distant future) in strange Celtic-influenced lands such as Eirlandia where his latest novel is set and also the title of the new recording by Johnson & Dunning.

Johnson is the keyboardist, occasional percussionist, engineer and producer. He lays down a full, rich keyboard sound with outstanding textures. Then Dunning puts on a bunch of Celtic-sounding flute and pennywhistle solos. But there is more to their sound than just that. Violinist Wendy Goodwin (whom they have recorded and toured with several times previously) performs some delicious solos. There also are guest musicians on bass and several kinds of guitars, all of it tasty although generally pushed back in the mix a bit. And there also is Janet Marie Chvatal singing wordless vocalizations, subtly and never taking the emphasis away from the keyboards, flute and violin.

Some of the highlights are “Tir na nOg” which has a beautiful piano melody line, “House of Llyr” with a haunting violin that goes on to duet with the flute, and those two instruments jamming again on “The Kingdom of All Tomorrows.”

If you have been a fan of contemporary Celtic music ever since the “Titantic” movie captured that on its soundtrack, then you will absolutely enjoy the Eirlandia album. You do not want to miss what is sure to be one of the loveliest albums of the year, an exceptional recording in every way.