Seamus Egan – Early Bright

Album Review | THL Records | Review by Marc Higgins

Seamus Egan is a respected influential traditional Irish musician, founder member of Solas, and established film music composer. Early Bright perfectly brings those two strands together, showcasing Irish music while drawing in cinematic Americana, Folk and much more besides. With a cover that looks like a fragmented Walker Evans American South rural landscape photo, or the sleeve of an expansive Pat Metheny ECM album, this is the music of a back road big sky road trip.

“Early Bright” the track and Early Bright the album opens like an old record playing in an empty room. Atmospheric with crackles, Egan’s keyboards and samples conjure images of a musical box or a mechanical piano, bleeding into the guitar and banjo on “6 then 5” the second track, this has the cycling intensity of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s “Perpetuum Mobile”. There is a wonderful mix of acoustic and the more machine like huge bass notes with an infectious knotty rhythm. “Welcome To Orwell” and “B Bump Bounce” have some fine interplay between the guitars and again Joe Phillips’ double bass, with Seamus also adding some superb low whistle. “Everything always was” is timeless, meditative, with more than a touch of John Martyn’s “Wee Small Hours” where Seamus plays with delay. Egan’s reflective picked guitar, as expansive and atmospheric as Bill Frisell’s Americana is to die for on this album highlight track which culminates in Moira Smiley’s wordless vocal. “Simon Nally Hunt The Buck” continues the genre straddling atmospheric music with Egan’s dancing but reflective Mandolin and Owen Marshall’s Bouzouki swelled by the Fretless String Quartet. The resulting piece manages to mix together emotions in a surprising way. “Tournesol” is atmospheric with space and low whistles alive with nature and bird song.

Seamus, like Donal Lunny, creates music that spins and excites you and pieces that enchant, twining round like mist or smoke. On this track he manages to do both. “52 herz”  has the wide Savannah melancholy of Americana or Tex Mex, Kyle Sanna’s lap steel chirps and croons, drawing pictures. Like Mike Cooper’s modern steel guitar music this is timeless and contemporary with a lope and lilt that summons pictures. “Two Little Ducks” again mixes up crackling samples and intricate finger picking with deft beauty. “Under The Chestnut Tree” opens with The Fretless at their most melancholic, while Seamus’ playing over the top absolutely pulls at your heartstrings. If Early Bright was a soundtrack album, then this final track, playing under the credits suggests a stirring, emotional ending.