Solas

Although Solas straddles the Atlantic in terms of personnel and sometimes temperament, its roots are unquestionably Celtic. In fact, Solas often is cited as one of the world's leading Irish bands, despite being based on American soil. The quintet's seemingly casual virtuosity and fervid spirit flourish both on traditional material and the contemporary fare that regularly enters its repertoire these days, albeit with such exquisite doses of the auld stuff that lineages are unmistakable. There are only two traditional tunes on Solas's The Turning Tide (Compass), out this week, but the band members' originals and the four magnificent covers all sparkle with ancient tendrils coaxed from Winifred Horan's fiddle or Seamus Egan's whistles or Mick McAuley's accordion. A swirling air or reel easily drifts in a contemporary direction with jazzy phrasing or the introduction of a drum kit to add kick. Ultimately the album's underlying theme of troubled times comes from the covers, which settle naturally among the stirring instrumentals: Richard Thompson's "The Ditching Boy," Josh Ritter's "A Girl in the War," Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," and Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart's "Sorry." Amidst the bristling instruments, it's relative newcomer Mairead Phelan's haunting voice that adds the telling flourishes—poignancy, desperation, outrage. All ages. (Photo by James Goulden)
Fri., Feb. 12, 7 p.m., 2010

 
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