Solas Biography

New York-based Irish-American folk band Solas’ name translates as ‘light’ in Gaelic. They have brought new lustre to the roots/folk genre with their high-energy take on Irish traditional music. Founded in 1996, the quintet originally comprised Seamus Egan (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; flute, whistles, mandolin, guitar, bodhrán), Karan Casey (lead vocals), John Doyle (guitar/vocals) Winifred Horan (fiddle) and Mick McAuley (accordion, concertina, whistles, vocals). Spokesman Egan is well known throughout New York for his work as a freelance producer and prolific solo artist (also for Shanachie Records). Indeed, all the members of the band have been involved in other projects in some capacity during their time with Solas. Egan elaborated to Billboard magazine in 1998, ‘I think the combined experience level keeps growing, and it reflects back on the group.’ Part of their agenda is an attempt to educate New York audiences that Irish traditional music embraces more than simply the Chieftains and Enya. To that end, they placed songs on Disney Records’ Winnie The Pooh: Friends Forever compilation and the Warner Brothers movie, Soldier. Their third studio album The Words That Remain (1998) included contributions from Iris DeMent and Bela Fleck, and a cover version of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Pastures Of Plenty’, in a further attempt to expand their audience.

Karan Casey was replaced as lead singer by Deirdre Scanlan on the band’s fourth album, The Hour Before Dawn, which featured a version of a song Egan originally co-composed with Canadian pop star Sarah McLachlan, ‘I Will Remember You’. Guitarist/keyboard player Donal Clancy replaced Doyle on the follow-up, The Edge Of Silence, an album which saw the band’s sound drifting towards new age and pop. Clancy was replaced by Eamon McElholm on 2003’s Another Day, a collection which revived some of the spirit of the band’s earlier releases. The 2005 follow-up Waiting For An Echo was less song-orientated than its predecessor, opening in some style with a trio of reels and focusing throughout on the band’s prodigious instrumental talents.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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