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Sharon Shannon & Friends "The Diamond Mountain Sessions" Grapevine GRACD 289

Perhaps the most significant of the "friends" on this album is Donal Lunny, who also produces six of the 14 tracks, although it would be unfair to regard Sharon Shannon and her band as some kind of puppet in the hands of the master. Wherever credit is given, this is much more than the next album by Sharon Shannon.

Sharon has put together a series of American-Irish fusions, which follow in the footsteps of Aly Bain's groundbreaking "Transatlantic sessions" and are helping to drive the schmaltz out of country music. The presence of big names like Steve Earle, Jackson Browne and John Prine as guest vocalists could well put this on the mainstream shelves in the supermarket record sections. After some rousing tunes, led by Galician piper, Carlos Nunez, Steve Earle gets the whole project off to a rocking start with a driving version of his own "Galway Girl", which with the right marketing could give the Shannon band a hit single.

That is followed by the band in a gentle treatment of Ian Carr's "Diamond Mountain" which featured on TV this summer. Jackson Browne's contribution is Dylan's "Man of Constant Sorrow", and John Prine's "Love Love Love" but one of the most enjoyable songs comes from Dessie O'Halloran with "Say You Love Me" in which he sounds as if he has just stood up to sing in a smoky bar-room which just happens to have some of the world's top Irish musicians in session. Wonderful stuff. Buy your own copy and subvert your Nashville-loving friends by giving it to them for Christmas.

Bob Harragan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 41 of The Living Tradition magazine.