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For Love and Laughter

Solas

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Album Review

Few Irish bands that are as deeply rooted in Celtic tradition as Solas is manage to rock anywhere near as hard as they do. It's not just that they play with vigor and power — it's that they rock. On their eighth album of new material (and first with singer Mairéad Phelan) they focus, as usual, on traditional tunes and songs, investing everything with their trademark blend of off-handed virtuosity and joyful energy, and they throw in a few subtle curveballs as well — such as a lovely arrangement of Rickie Lee Jones' "Sailor Song," and another of an old Dillards number called "There Is a Time." Hipster string band the Duhks join in for a couple of tracks as well. But while there are no weak tracks on this album, its most thrilling moments turn out to be the most traditional (or at least traditional-sounding) ones: a stunning rendition of "The Gallant Hussar," the spectacular reel set that opens the program, and a pair of original jigs by bandleader Seamus Egan and guitarist Eamon McElholm. The exception to that rule is a drop-dead gorgeous modern song called "Merry Go Round," a tune that is not especially Celtic in feel but that fits beautifully into the program anyway. Phelan's voice is quite different from that of original singer Karan Casey — it's a bit darker and grainier, and it brings a nice new facet to Solas' established sound.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Blending a sincere love and respect for the traditions of Irish music with a sense of melodic and instrumental adventure that suggests a clear focus on the future, Solas have established themselves as one of the finest Celtic folk groups working in the United States, with...
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For Love and Laughter, Solas
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