Album Review: Sharon Shannon, Sacred Earth

10th studio album from Galway girl

For her first studio album in three years, the accordion legend has once again expanded her musical horizons far beyond her native shores. Working with long-time Robert Plant guitarist, Justin Adams (who co-produced), the result is a mesmerizing blend of Irish and world music, encompassing African, Middle Eastern and American styles. ‘Frenchie’s Reel’ has its origins in the New England/Canadian border region and is performed here with a group of Shetland fiddlers, lending the track a truly Transatlantic feel. ‘Rusheen Bay’ starts out like something from Paul Simon’s Graceland, with African “hi-life” guitar to the fore, Shannon’s distinctive accordion underpinned by a nimble rhythm, which soon transforms into a reggae-tinged affair.

The decidedly bluesy ‘Let’s Go’ has the distinction of having been recorded in no less than five countries, including the US (where it features Greg Guy, the son of legendary Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy, on guitar) – while the vocals come courtesy of Australian duo Hat Fitz and Cara.

Bringing it all back home, Finbar Furey lends his instantly recognisable vocals to the Jim Reeves hit ‘He’ll Have To Go’, while ‘Sea Shepherd’ features the playing of Seckou Keita on the Kora (Africa Harp). Elsewhere a light and airy tune, the classical ‘Bas Pelles’, is buoyed by a descending acoustic guitar pattern. Even opera is touched on with a version of ‘The Merry Widow’ – a plucked harp adding texture to the classic waltz.

The album’s nearest thing to a pop song, ‘The Machine’, features New Mexican chanteuse Alyra Rose on a politically charged tune, which is injected with the melody of an Irish reel. Great stuff.

 

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