Looking for the perfect soundtrack to fuel your next St. Patrickís Day party? This ainít it. Seamus Egan is the kind of trailblazer that Irish music that breaks the chains of stereotyping, and that hasnít changed in the 24 years that have elapsed since weíve last seen an album where his was the name above the title. A multi-instrumentalist whoís had a hand in soundtracks, symphonies and leading the renowned band Solas, Egan helped change many a listenerís perception of Irish and Celtic music, bringing a broader reach of global influences including healthy dollops of Americana.
Early Bright, the result of musical ideas that Egan has kept in his head for a long time and nurtured during his relocation from Philadelphia to rural Vermont, flows like 43 minutes of wordless melodic poetry. Each track features finessed but often-sprightly sounds on a variety of acoustic instruments, many of them (including banjo, nylon string guitar, mandolin and low whistles) played by Egan himself. Able support comes from Kyle Sanna (guitar, piano, lap steel), Owen Marshall (bouzouki, harmonium), Moira Smiley (accordion, vocal), Joe Phillips (double bass) and the Fretless String Quartet.
As for the music, itís blissfully tricky to describe. For every jaunty passage that has the feel of what most folks think Irish music would or should sound like (albeit a notch more subdued), there are as many delicate, pensive, in-between moments that set your mind reflecting before the tempo picks up again and youíre back to swaying your head, tapping your toes and enjoying yourself thoroughly. Layered, lovely and evocative, this stuff may not get anyone jigging and reeling at the corner pub, but it gives a softer spin to familiar Irish sounds and will be appreciated by anyone receptive to such. Count me in. - Tom Orr
Moira Smiley in concert