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Solas - Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers
SOLAS "Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers" Shanachie 78010

This second release from the Irish American quintet confirms Solas's pedigree as currently one of the hottest bands on the planet playing solely traditional material to such an envious high standard it hurts.

From the opening Balkan infused 'Wind that shakes the Barley' through endless selections of jigs, reels and barndances, to the last chords of 'Adieu Lovely Nancy' this album is a constant delight throughout.

Many of the sets are quite seamless in their selection of tunes and construction of arrangements; listen to the storming jig set that finishes with the 'Four posts of the Bed', It's a cracking example of what this band are capable of; instrumental textures so finely spun and the tempos are so well balanced that they benefit from potentially endless play without sounding tired on the ears.

The exceptional talent of Seamus Egan takes centre stage throughout. He is quite inspirational on banjo, mandolin and guitar and takes no prisoners when he draws the flute on 'The Primrose Lass'. But the collective talent of guitarist John Doyle, the electrifying fiddling of Winifrid Horan, and the superbly fluid box juggling of John Williams (who has since departed for family reasons), combine so effortlessly with Egan you would think these guys had been playing together since kindergarten.

Solas are also one of the few groups to solve 'the singer within group context' problem. The arrangements are so well crafted to suit Karan Casey's wonderfully wistful tone on Sidney Carter's 'Vanished Like the Snow', the exuberant sing along of 'Aililiu Na Gamhna' or the beautiful blending of instruments and voice on 'The Maid on the Shore'.

Producer Johnny Cunningham has given the album a superbly polished, yet natural dynamic that only enhances the sound of Solas, making this stunning recording album of any year. Just buy it.

Iain McQueen

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This album was reviewed in Issue 28 of The Living Tradition magazine.