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Feb. 17, 2005



Photo and headline -- Solas

IT'S A LONG WAY FROM COUNTY TIPPERARY IN IRELAND, where Solas vocalist Deirdre Scanlan was born and raised, to a tour bus parked somewhere in Kansas City. "I still live there in Tipperary," she noted, as the Celtic band rested after a show, preparing for a cross-country trek. Next stop Montana. "It'll take us a few days, but we're in no hurry," said Scanlan. The western portion of the tour brings Solas to Arcata for a show Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Van Duzer.

Scanlan joined the stellar Celtic quintet a few years ago, replacing vocalist Karan Casey, who had opted for a solo career. Originally founded by Irish American musicians Seamus Egan and Winnie Horan, the other members of the band were born in Ireland.

"I come from a musical family," said Scanlan. "My father and his siblings are all very musical, so we all got involved from an early age in Irish dance and music, sang and played for many years, but I was the only one out of my family who kept going with it. I used to go to all the competitions in Ireland, various festivals."

Scanlan was a schoolteacher for years, but kept up her singing on the side. "I was getting a feel for what I wanted to do and just about the time I decided to give singing a go fulltime, Solas came looking for me."

The latest Solas album for Shanachie Records, Waiting for an Echo, officially hits the street a few days after the band plays in Arcata. The title comes from the lyrics to a song by Richard Shindell, "On A Sea of Fleurs de Lis," sung by Scanlan.

Another tune, "Erin," came from Antje Duvekot. "She's a young, extremely talented songwriter who we've worked with in the past. We recorded two of her songs on one of our earlier albums. We also do one by Casey Neill, `Lowground.' Eamon sings that one on the new record. Then there are a lot of tunes, jigs and reels that the band wrote themselves, and we do a traditional American ballad, `Silver Dagger.'"

And no, it's not based on Joan Baez' take on the song. "It was the Dolly Parton version that we learnt that from, then Win rewrote the melody for half of it," Scanlan explained. The song has an American folk feel until Horan's fiddle and Egan's penny whistle turn it just a wee bit toward Celtic, although not exactly traditional.

"We have always done the old traditional Irish tunes, along with newly composed tunes that the band has written," she continued. "Seamus, Winnie and Eamon [McElholm] have all written songs that we cover, that we've recorded and do in our concerts.

"We do songs from the Irish tradition as well as British folk songs and American folk songs alongside songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and people like that, so it's very much a mix between the traditional and the contemporary."

Of course, a Solas version of a Tom Waits song has its own sound. "We bring what we know. We all started in the traditional music and we carry that on with us. We have used loops and continue to incorporate the new technology into the recordings. So be it traditional or new, it will always have our slant on it. It reflects who we are and where we come from. Even Win and Seamus, who were born here in the states, came from Irish backgrounds, Irish parents. The tradition is very important and we carry it on, it's what we know."

Solas performs on Saturday, Feb. 19, at HSU's Van Duzer Theatre, showtime, 8 p.m. Tickets are $25, $20 seniors and children, $15 for HSU students. For more information, call CenterArts at 826-3928. For more on Solas, see

Bob Doran


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