Just saw Solas in Nevada City, CA, where they presented this new material. The first half of the show consisted (mostly) of Seamus describing his great-grandfather's experiences as a copper miner in Butte Montana, while historic photographs of that time and place were projected on a screen behind the band. After providing introductory background information, Seamus would introduce each successive song within the context of his grandfather's (very short) life. Along the way, he wove in his thoughts about the greater American immigrant experience and provided information about working conditions at the time and the struggles workers had to undergo to win minimal concessions regarding working conditions from the corporations. I felt the weaving together of the stories and the songs worked very well and the new material was very strong (from a songwriting perspective) and emotionally engaging. The second half of the show was given over to playing tunes not associated with Butte. As for the playing, it surpassed my expectations. I'd never experienced Solas live, although I do have their first live dvd, which I've watched countles times, as well as their first three cds. I was, to be honest, expecting to be disappointed by the absence of Karen Kasey and John Doyle, but in fact, the current vocalist Niamh Varian-Barry knocked me out. She is a powerful singer (contralto?) with great dynamics, who can muster more power and really belt it out in a way that previous Solas singers did not. John Doyle's replacement, guitarist Eamon McElholm, was very solid, if not quite as scintillating and vibrant as Doyle, who sets a ridiculously high standard. The core trio of Seamus Egan, Winifred Horan and Mick McCauley were magnificent, although I much prefer Egan when he's playing banjo or pipes-- his nylon string guitar playing does little for me and the timbre tends to get buried in the mix. Personally, Horan is my favorite Solas player and one of my favorite musicians, in any genre. The intensity, virtuosity, playfulness and overall sense of abandon that has always marked her playing were very much in evidence. This is not to say that the rest of the band were in any way slouches-- they all played masterfully-- I simply find Horan particularly captivating. This is a band that glorifies and at the same time, transcends the genre of Traditional Irish music and experiencing them in concert is to feel completely taken over-- bodily, mentally and spiritually-- and carried away on a blissful journey. If this is what you desire from music, then I highly recommend you see the band on their current tour. And yes, I will be buying this cd!