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SOLAS "The Words That Remain" Shanachie 78023

This is Solas' third album in as many years, but maintaining the quality doesn't seem to be a problem. Mick McAuley has replaced John Williams on button boxes, the brilliant Seamus Egan and Winnie Horan pairing still pumps out the tunes, and the voice of Karan Casey is as sweet as ever.

In twelve tracks (58 mins), Karan gives us siz songs. Only two of them are Irish traditional: a strangely upbeat version of "A Maid that Sleeps in Love", and a stunning arrangement of "A Chomaraigh Aoibhinn" with eerie guitar and fiddle accompaniment. The other four songs are Woodie Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty" given the Solas upbeat treatment, Peggy Seeger's timeless "Song of Choice" on which Karan is joined by Iris De Ment, the intriguing "Sraid an Chloig" by John Spillane of Nomos, and an indifferent version of the Orkney Selkie song.

On the instrumental side we have the usual Solas mix of traditional Irish and Irish-American tunes, with a handful of the band's own tunes. There's a great set of reels with guest banjo ace Bela Fleck, and a sparkling version of Karen Tweed's jig "Waking Up in Wonderful Wark". The Galician slow air "La Bruxa" gives newcomer Mick McAuley the chance to shine, and the final set of reels is a series of top-class solos that builds to an impressive finale.

The verdict: good solid stuff, with frequent flashes of brilliance.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 32 of The Living Tradition magazine.