As co-founder of the popular group Solas, Seamus Egan invigorated Celtic tunes with American folk, and then bounced the hybrid back to Ireland for further iterations, locking Hibernian and Stateside traditions in a constantly changing dance.
For his second solo album, Early Bright, Egan builds on that template, adding classical, pop and progressive rock influences. Propelled by coiling guitars—Kyle Sanna’s lead and Egan’s nylon-string—“Welcome to Orwell” builds to a whirlwind of picked and strummed updrafts that suggests a gentler folk cousin to Led Zeppelin’s “Achilles’ Last Stand.”
“Simon Nally Hunt the Buck” starts with a Celtic knot of entwined guitars as delicate as a minuet, before ascending in a spidery tarantella. The playful “Two Little Ducks” displays even more Baroque influences. It’s a pointillist folk guitar reel that plays like Christy Moore-meets- Mozart. Sanna’s distant pedal steel sighs through the pretty cross-picked air “52 Hertz.” Here, a cloud layer of harmonium and keyboards conjures echoes of Brian Eno’s ambient compositions before Sanna’s corkscrewing guitar and Owen Marshall’s bouzouki transform the tune into a rollicking céilí.
The gentle “Everything Always Was” casts the album’s widest stylistic net, coupling hymn-like harmonium, sinewy guitar, wordless vocals, and country-western twang. It’s a snapshot that captures both Ireland’s mist-shrouded magic and a rural American landscape thawing with the spring.
A perfect balance of energetic and wistful, modern and traditional, Early Bright finds Egan weaving all his disparate musical strands into an emotionally powerful whole.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.