HELICON'S "The Titan" is the sort of album that makes you wonder why there ever was much of a market for new age recordings in the first place. You want soothing? This Baltimore trio's blend of dulcimer, flute, guitar and fiddles is often that all right, but it's soothing in the way that, say, an ancient Irish air is -- firmly rooted in emotion, culture and history.
Of course, not all the music is contemplative. Guitarist Robin Bullock lets his flatpick fly on Norman Blake's "The Old Brown Case," twin fiddles vigorously reshape "The Athol Highlanders" into a spirited reel, a couple of Bolivian folk melodies are rendered with a vitality reminiscent of (and perhaps inspired by) Inti-Illimani's recordings and the album is punctuated by a series of rhythmically infectious polkas from Cape Breton, Poland, England and Ireland.
For every darting melody and dance rhythm, though, there's a calming or bittersweet refrain. Some are old, some new -- flutist Chris Norman's "Nova Scotia January" is beautifully underscored by guest violist Freyda Epstein -- and a gentle, insinuating charm is common to all.
HELICON -- "The Titan" (Turquoise). Appearing Sunday at 4:30 at All Souls Episcopal Church, 2300 Cathedral Ave. NW. Call 202/232-4244.