REVIEW: Seamus Egan’s “Early Bright” is Delightful Irish Tradition Sweetened with Musical Skill


Though never a big fan of instrumentals, through the years I’ve appreciated many wonderful vocal-less tunes. As a child I adored Bert Kaemphert’s “Afrikaan Beat,” Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas,” & David Seville’s jazzy “Almost Good,” (flip of “The Chipmunk Song”).

I’ve enjoyed instrumentals by Van Morrison, Horslips & Jon Mark but didn’t think Solas’ (on hiatus) Seamus Egan’s solo LP Bright Eyes (THL Records – drops Jan. 17) would pull me in. It did.

The varied instruments, how the music’s arranged (Maeve Gilchrist) & performed is delightful. While the first tune is a little new-age oriented when Seamus segues into the banjo dominated “6 Then 5,” I know I’m in the right place. While the banjo leads off on track 2, the more acoustic / banjo intertwining of “B Bump Bounce,” is driven with an intricacy that’s to be admired. The LP showcases virtuosity while the music’s inspired by childhood memories that have been gathering dust for years.

The melodies, while Irish in tradition, is rooted in classical influences, modern composer borrowings sweetened with the musical skill of multi-instrumentalist Mr. Egan who plays tenor banjo, nylon string guitar, low whistles, mandolin, keyboard & percussion.

The American-born & now Vermont-based musician released his 1st solo LP (1996) When Juniper Sleeps, 23-years ago. This 2nd collection is a welcome gift & includes the talent of Kyle Sanna (guitar, piano, lap steel), Owen Marshall (bouzouki, harmonium), Moira Smiley (piano, accordion, vocals), Joe Phillips (double bass) & The Fretless String Quartet comprised of 4 tightly tuned musicians.

While none of the tracks have been recorded in Ireland they do have its spirit. They’re all recorded in places like Portland, ME; Brooklyn, NY; West Springfield, Boston & Canton, MA & Philadelphia, PA.

There’s a classical touch to some but it never gets stuffy. What I liked were some of the intros to songs (“Everything Always Was”) that basically is unrelated to the whole. The intro helps to lead into a song as attractive as a woman accessorizes herself. A beautiful melodic coat but the scarf & hat bring her the attention. This acoustic guitar-based song is exceptional, poignant & memorable.

I listen to this music & find I’m smiling to myself. It’s a melody that a high school English teacher should play to the class – tell students to close their eyes & listen. Then write what they see behind their closed eyes. What images does the melody convey in their ears?

At first “Simon Nally Hunt the Buck,” is atmospheric but it does have an engaging kick to it. The music on a whole is what one would consider Irish-roots music – a blended whiskey into a classical sum.

The 43-minute, 10-track CD was produced by Seamus & will be available at Amazon.

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