St. Patrick's Day may fall in the springtime, but for me the best time of year for Irish music is fall, or whatever you want to call the beginning of Houston's other season -- the one that is not summer, the one we're in now. The ozone haze recedes, and you can pack your lungs with enough air to propel a pennywhistle across the length of a reel. The heavy humidity melts away, and the air is crisp, and you find yourself suddenly full of enough pep to bang on a bodhran while you dance a jig. The nights are long and getting longer, not shorter, and melancholia reigns. These are the nights you want to spend in a pub with a cool pint or four and a band like Solas.

No traditionalists, this Irish/American quintet has been infuriating purists for the better part of ten years with its blend of Irish folk music, bluegrass, country and world music. Led by multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan, the quintet boasts other highlights, including the clear voice of singer Deirdre Scanlan, which is suggestive of that of a less hyperglycemic Allison Krauss. Fiddler Winifred Horan also shines -- not just as a player but also as a composer. Her gypsy-jazzy instrumental "Highlands of Holland" is the most immediately catchy tune on the band's brand-new record, Another Day.

The Boston Herald calls them "the best traditional Irish band in the world," and while this writer thinks that honor belongs to the crazed crescendo-artists in the similarly genre-bending combo Kila, Solas is damn close behind. So put on your Aran Islands sweater and head on over.


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