Solas brings 'Turning Tide' tour to Ashland

    If you're not careful, Solas' latest CD, "The Turning Tide," will sweep you off your feet and pull you straight to Ireland.

    The album, to be released Tuesday, Feb. 16, is a pleasant range of sweet acoustic melodies ("A Tune for Roan") and lively tunes ("Hugo's Big Reel") that will have you tapping your feet in no time. Playing both contemporary and traditional Irish standards, the band redefines Celtic folk, which they often fuse with country, blues and sometimes jazz improvisations and global rhythms.

    "We're an Irish or Celtic band, but I suppose we've never limited ourselves to what would be traditional in that sense," said Seamus Egan, one of the band's multi-instrumentalists. "We write a lot of our own stuff and record songs from the tradition itself ... We'll have a go at anything if we think we can do justice to it."

    As part of its international "Turning Tide" tour, the group will play at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the Unitarian Center, 87 Fourth St., Ashland.

    The Irish band started in the U.S., but most of its members are direct from the Emerald Isle. Solas features Egan on flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, tin and low whistle, guitar and bodhran; Winifred Horan on fiddle and vocals; Mick McAuley on accordion and vocals; Eamon McElholm on guitar, keyboards and vocals; and Máiréad Phelan on vocals.

    Since it emerged in 1996, the band made fast headway in the Irish music scene and maintained consistency in its sound despite numerous member changes. Egan and Horan are the only two remaining from the band's original lineup.

    "The lineup we've had now has been one of the longest settled lineups we've had, which is pretty nice," Egan said.

    "Somehow there is still an energy, and having Winifred and myself still there, there is a common thread sonically that you can follow from the first album to this one."

    "The Turning Tide," Solas' 10th album, is produced by the independent label, Compass Records in Nashville, Tenn., as are its previous two albums, "Love and laughter" released in 2008 and "Reunion," a 10th anniversary live album and DVD featuring many of the past band members.

    "Love and Laughter" and "The Turning Tide" are the only two CDs featuring the soft and yet dynamic vocal stylings of Phelan. Although Phelan is considered the lead singer, many Solas songs are done as ensembles, and six of the songs on the new album are solely instrumental.

    The band doesn't take credit for the songs themselves, as they play mostly traditional covers — "Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen, "Girl in the War" by Josh Ritter and "The Poor Ditching Boy" by Richard Thompson, as well as old folk songs. Nonetheless, the arrangements were rewritten by the band to fit its instrumentation. Egan said they used instruments associated with Irish music and melded their sound with the artist's original sound in a manner that is appropriate for the sentiments of the song.

    Several of the songs have a bit of commentary to them "speaking to the social, economic and political issues reflecting what's going on around us at the moment," Egan said.

    While still holding its breath about the success of the forthcoming CD, Egan said the group has had positive feedback thus far and is hoping that will continue.

    "I think we're really happy with how it all came together as sort of a snap shot of where the band is at the moment," he said.

    Ticket's to the band's performance at the Unitarian Center are $20 in advance; $22 the day of the show and $10 for teens, ages 12-17.

    For more information, visit or call 541-535-3562.

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