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Celtic Connections CCCD1100

There is always a certainty to a new release by the perennially-young Sharon Shannon, and that is the knowledge that you’re going to hear traditional Irish music played with brio and flair. So no surprise here, as that certainly is in there. But, as the title suggests, there’s a whole lot extra, too.

Sharon has never been shy at throwing herself into (and being completely at home with) other styles of music from round the world. With some 25 backing musicians and singers, she takes herself away from the strictures of Celtic music here, but never leaves them that far behind, blending in country, blues, hip-hop and classical styles amongst others. Whether it’s the six Shetland fiddlers giving it welly on Frenchie’s Reel, the reggae-influenced The Machine, or the Franz Lehar classic The Merry Widow (yes, that one, really), there’s a constant tingle of excitement wondering just where we’re going to end up next. Africa, maybe, with Seckou Keita accompanying on kora? Yes. Really unexpected old Jim Reeves songs like He’ll Have To Go with vocals from Finbar Furey? Yes. (I’ll confess that last one took a bit of listening to in order to appreciate it in a postmodern, ironic sense, but that’s just me!)

The underpinning constancy and the unifying factor throughout the CD is, of course, Sharon’s playing, which, as ever, ranges from gentle and melodic to no-holds-barred out-and-out full throttle top-drawer drive and flair. The individual tracks take us in many diverse directions, but the overall variety comes together in an extremely enjoyable package.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.