Some CDs just seem to creep up out of the blue and so it goes with this surprising collaboration between these four musicians (or eight, if the supporting cast is included – bassist Tony Molloy, percussionist James Mackintosh, John Joe Kelly on bodhrán and, for one track only, Mary Shannon on banjo). The element of surprise is twofold. Firstly, though Jim Murray is a regular member of Sharon’s touring band, it’s highly unlikely that anyone could have predicted that he and the accordionist would be teamed up with the Galwegian fiddler and the Mancunian flute and whistle player (Mike’s pipes are not present on this recording). Considering all four’s busy working schedules, it is frankly amazing that they managed to find time to record Tunes.
Secondly, after a couple of rather dodgy recent albums on which she sometimes seemed to be no more than a guest herself, Tunes really does represent Sharon Shannon’s return to her roots (especially as it appears to have been recorded in her own cottage). Not that her compadres Frankie and Mike play minor roles – far from it – but there’s something almost indefinable about the album’s feel which suggests a relaxed Shannon at one with the world. And, of course, the odd quirky tune-change, as from The Jewels in the Ocean to Lizzie in the Low Ground, plus the presence of Tony Molloy’s bass and Jim’s use of a nylon-strung guitar is reminiscent of her Each Little Thing period.
In contrast, The Road to Corrandulla set is very redolent of Mike McGoldrick’s solo album Morning Glory and Calum’s Reel has more than a touch of the Capercaillie about it (unsurprisingly, it was written by Donald Shaw). Perhaps naturally too King of the Pipers/The Bucks of Oranmore has a real De Dannan feel to it.
None of the above comparisons, however, should be taken as a deterrent. Tunes is a box of tricks and a real bundle of delights and sees all four musicians and their accomplices in stomping form while simultaneously often giving the veritable impression of a relaxed and entertaining session.
16th June, 2005
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