Sharon Shannon

The Diamond Mountain Sessions

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While Sharon Shannon is perhaps best known as a talented fiddle and accordion player in Celtic circles, The Diamond Mountain Sessions should broaden her appeal. This album finds her joined by a multitude of talent, including luminaries such as John Prine, Jackson Browne, and Steve Earle. Since Shannon is primarily a musician and not a singer, the album also contains a number of fine instrumentals. Things get started with "A Costa de Galicia," a lovely jig full of intricate accordion work, and the pipes of Carl Nunez. Next up is a hard, driving Earle song, "The Galway Girl," that is immediately likable and will remind many of his best acoustic work. Browne's vocal on "Man of Constant Sorrow" is enriched by the addition of Mary Staunton on backing vocals, while Dessie O'Hollaran offers a more traditional take on "Say You Love Me." It is probably inevitable that Americana radio will push the vocal tracks, and while this isn't a bad thing, the instrumental tracks have just as much to offer. The Woodchoppers join Shannon on the lovely "The Pernod Watlz," while Liz and Yvonne Kane join her on the medley of tunes titled "Fire in the Bellies." Even though a number of players are present on each track, the arrangements are never crowded. Instead, the sound is open and airy. It is nice that artists like Shannon have been given the freedom to make albums that are stylistically all over the map like The Diamond Mountain Sessions. This broad musical palette serves to show that Americana and Celtic have a lot in common, and gives fans of either style a nice way to expand their tastes. Shannon's confident debut on Compass shouldn't be missed.

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