In my neck of the woods, accordions are almost as popular as banjos; if someone shows up at an acoustic jam, as soon as it’s cracked open, all the players in the room take a cigarette break – including those who’ve just quit smoking!
If, however, the accordion player were Sharon Shannon, they would have made a major mistake. She is not only the recent recipient of Ireland’s “Folk Artist of The Year,” but “Best Traditional Female” according to Irish Music Magazine. In Ireland The Diamond Mountain Sessions has achieved triple-platinum status.
Shannon is known as an instrumentalist; and she doesn’t sing a lick, so when faced with doing an album of songs, she enlisted help from friends. In this case, the friends included Steve Earle, John Prine, Jackson Browne, Donal Lunny, John Hoban, Dessie O’Halloran, and Mary Stuanton. The core band, The Woodchoppers, consisted of Sharon’s sister, Mary, James Delaney, Lloyd Byrne, Tom Malloy, and Jim Murray.
Much of the recording was done in Letterfrack, a former monastery in Connemara, Ireland. All the performers stayed there while working on the album. The result is a selection of songs that show off Sharon’s traditional Irish style. Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl” works especially well when given the full traditional treatment. “Man of Constant Sorrow,” sung by Jackson Browne, also sounds haunting and fresh. If you want to hear what Irish folks listen to when they want to hear Irish music, slap this on your CD player. It’s as bracing as a wee dram of single malt whisky.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s June ’01 issue.