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The Celtic boom of the Riverdance days are long over, leaving only the fructose sweetened foam of marketing campaigns like Celtic Woman. But real Celtic music continues to be played, and real Irish musicians continue to take their heritage and bring it forward into the 21st century. No one does it better than Solas, the band headed up by multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan.
Seamus Egan had his day in the spotlight during the Celtic craze, scoring the soundtrack for The Brothers McMullen which included a hit he wrote for Sarah McLachlan, “I Will Remember You.”
But he was making Celtic music long before that and has continued long after. Solas pushes the boundaries of Celtic music from the inside out. American born and Irish raised, Seamus Egan grew up playing traditional music, but with his band Solas, he’s always treated tradition with a modernist’s sensibility.
Seamus Egan: I think one of the reasons Irish music has stayed as, I don’t know, if not always on the air 24 hours a day but it’s always around because it’s a music that has allowed itself to evolve. But it’s been able to avoid ending up in a museum.
After some experiments with electronica and electric guitars, Solas has returned to their core sound on their latest CD, For Love and Laughter. There’s not much in the way of electronics, except a hint of electic guitar. Otherwise, it’s virtuoso playing from multi-instrumentalist Egan, Mick McAuley on button accordion and guitar, Eamon McElholm on guitar and keyboards, and Winifred Horan playing violin. The album also marks the debut of their new singer from County Kilkenny, Mairead Phelan.
Even when they’re playing songs by Tom Waits or Bob Dylan, Solas somehow makes them Celtic.
Winifred Horan: The instrumentation definitely dictates that it’s Celtic, like the accordion, the whistle, the fiddle. Because even examining some of the breaks or the intros and the outros on some of the songs like, they wouldn’t be typically Celtic, I don’t think. Rhythmically they’re not what would be considered traditional. I think it’s definitely it’s more of the instrumentation that leads the listener to believe that it’s Cetlic.
Solas continue their new Celtic traditions on their latest CD, For Love and Laughter. We’ll hear them live on Echoes Monday, September 29.
You can also hear an Audio Version of this blog with music.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))