SOLAS "For Love and Laughter" Compass

On its new CD, Solas plays to its strengths: instrumental pieces.
On its new CD, Solas plays to its strengths: instrumental pieces. (By Robert Hakalski)
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Friday, August 29, 2008

SOLAS"For Love and Laughter"Compass

SOLAS, a five-member Irish band, will take you back to that bar you used to walk to in snowy Boston, the one where unassuming Irish fiddlers played in the corner for beer drinkers who scarcely noticed. Those musicians, like Solas, performed with a gentle, calming lilt in the midst of a brawling world.

Much of Solas's new release, "For Love and Laughter," is instrumental, and this is where the band excels. The music doesn't need words to tell a story, from the dark, sad and beautiful "My Dream of You" highlighting piano and fiddle, to the upbeat and fun "John Riordan's Heels/Hoban's White House/The Lisnagun Jig" -- all one song that takes you on a journey. Mandolin, guitar, banjo, low whistle, flute, fiddle, viola, cello, accordion and bodhran . . . it's all the instruments you would expect from an Irish band.

Where the band does use vocals, as on its poppiest tune, "Merry Go Round," with Mairéad Phelan and guest vocalist Sarah Dugas, the sound is childlike; the harmonies and lyrics are light and simple.

The CD's title is appropriate. "Sunday's Waltz" and "Tilly's Jig/The Happy Traveler" sound like the music of lovers (intimate, yet playful), whereas "Eoin Bear's Reel/Tune for Sharon/The Rossa Reel" has a fun, casual feel.

Whatever the tune, "For Love and Laughter" is music for a good friend and a good ale. It should inspire you to leave your cares behind and just tap your foot.

-- Moira E. McLaughlin

Appearing today at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theater (703-228-1850, Show starts at 8 p.m.

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