Picks and Pans Review: Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers

UPDATED 10/27/1997 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 10/27/1997 at 01:00 AM EST


Although several members of this talented young quintet were born in the U.S., Solas, which means "light" in Gaelic, is simply one of the best Celtic music bands around. The sunny jigs and reels on their second lively, well-wrought album will likely lift your spirits, even as its sadder numbers, sung to mournful flute and stringed accompaniment, wrench your heart.

Solas's leader, Seamus Egan, is a native of suburban Philadelphia who composed The Brothers McMullen's soundtrack and, as a teenager, won the All-Ireland championships one year on four separate instruments (tin whistle, tenor banjo, mandolin and flute); he shines throughout, whether he's soloing or playing backup. His spirited bandmates—John Williams on accordion and concertina, Winifred Horan on fiddle and John Doyle on acoustic guitar—mesh seamlessly. And the Irish-born Karan Casey adds her classically trained voice to six of the 13 tracks—ranging from "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," an uptempo ditty about a 1798 Irish uprising, to the somber "Vanished like the Snow," a contemporary song about the disappearance of women from history.

With a grounding in traditional Irish music and tasteful hints of jazz chording to update their sound, Solas will warm the cockles of your heart, rain or shine. (Shanachie)

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