- 02 May 01
Here is an album conceived in Winkle's Bar, Kinvara, the juices got flowing over a weekend rave-up, with Liam O'Maonlai, Adam Clayton and Mike Scott just dropping around for a blast.
Here is an album conceived in Winkle's Bar, Kinvara, the juices got flowing over a weekend rave-up, with Liam O'Maonlai, Adam Clayton and Mike Scott just dropping around for a blast. That was two years ago, and now here it is: Paradise.
Sharon was in no mad rush to put out her first LP. Not long after the session she joined the Waterboys, and shelved the project while she went on tour. There were sessions in airplanes at festivals, in the backs of buses. She listened to more North American material she liked. The result is that 'Sharon Shannon' is only about 50% Irish trad, but you wouldn't necessarily know that. The album comes straight from a sitting room in heaven and should be blasted throughout the nuthouses of the world as a cure for clinical depression!
Everybody you know is on it, absolutely everybody. Consistent, however, is the influence of Steve Cooney, with whom Sharon hopes to tour, but the recording session attempted it seems, to catch the lively, natural flow of Winkle's, and there is none of this competitive statement or sense of the jet going for take-off you get on so many *contemporary* trad LPs.
Sharon Shannon's flower mercifully avoids being either cute or profound, staying light and remaining ever magical. She is a collective player by nature, bringing out the genius in her surroundings as well as herself, and bound for a future of limitless contribution to Irish music. Spaceport Sessions, 2010, here we come.
I forgot to mention that Sharon Shannon plays the melodeon, the accordion, the fiddle. That isn't important in itself, and might even be off-putting if the information fell into the wrong hands. Let's just call this album the Sharon Shannon Experience. But let me be specific.
At the time of writing, the actual names of the tunes have not appeared on the sleeve, because Sharon still isn't sure what they all are. Let me refer to them, then, by collective heading: for instance, what my notes call 'The Blackbird'. Here, the very cobblestones of Irish music are laid out end to end. Somewhere midstream, an African-sounding piano becomes the Cajun twin fiddle classic, 'The Happy One Step II' and ends up with Scott Joplin smeared all over the highway - O'Maonlai, I'm sure of it!
Each tune is supremely different, sometimes letting the Castigniari clatter peaceably alone, other times pumped up with a bass structure that is delightfully unpredictable. 'Tickle Her Leg', the last track on side one, is almost an old-fashioned, '70s trad piece, with delicate guitar work and a modal message. Two of the tracks are from the original Winkle's session, and contains traces of Sharon's own bubbling laughter and enthusiasm.
It's nearly two decades now that I've been listening to contemporary Irish traditional music with scrutiny, looking for the yellow brick road. With due respect to Mairtin O'Connor and Kevin Burke, to whose own arrangements I would liken some of these tracks, Sharon is clearing the air because she never goes for broke.
It isn't necessary, for there will be decades to come, and lightyears to go before we sleep. Already my vote for the number one trade album of the '90s.