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Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm enlightened as Santa's sack was lightened

While we were taking a weekend break in Dublin in November I was treated to my usual Christmas present, namely, a bundle of CDs from Dublin's finest music emporia. One of those CDs was actually a DVD. Sharon Shannon's Live at Dolan's.
When I got back home this DVD somehow managed to dodge the wrapping paper. And even if I had the slightest clue about the quality of the contents I still wouldn't have let this wait under the tree.

To the unfamiliar, Sharon Shannon plays the accordian....the tin whistle....violin.... Very good, so what's the big deal, you might say. Does she sing ? I haven't noticed yet......Hmmm, still not convinced then ? Well, all I'll say is that her previous album, released early 2006, and this DVD topped their respective charts in Ireland, almost immediately after release. That doesn't leave all that many besides you who are unconvinced.

Live at Dolan's opens with 3 instrumentals. I'll guarantee that before these 3 tunes have finished, your feet will have tapped, the top front teeth will have touched the bottom lip and the head would have nodded, your fingers would have clicked. If there's a pint of Guinness or a glass of wine nearby you'll be ready for the next one. Even the fellas will be ready to get up and dance. And no one has sung a note yet !

Sharon had managed to assemble an impressive 10-piece band for this DVD which was filmed in July 2006 Dolan's Warehouse in Limerick. As well as playing their respective roles within the confines of a band there were plenty of excellent solos and cameos within some of the tunes. The quality was high enough to warrant the creation of a DVD on the band's performances alone.

Gerry O'Connor playing banjo on Time to Time is worthy of over 8 minutes of your undivided attention. And before you've got chance to recover, lead guitarist, Jack Maher, gets behind the mike to give a superb bluesy number entitled Don't Give Up. The mood is impeccably enhanced with James Delaney (where've I seen him before?) on keyboards and Richie Buckley on Tenor Sax.

I could go on at length trying to describe the tunes which have become Sharon's anthems over the years. But I will point you to a couple. The Mighty Sparrow which ambles along at the start with Jim Murray strumming away on acoustic guitar while Sharon weaves patterns through it with her accordian. Robbie Casserly steps in with the drums and the tune chugs along into a brilliant Jack Maher guitar solo. Not to be out-done, Richie then steps in on Tenor Sax. If you haven't arrived in Chillville at the end of this tune, you've just got on the wrong train !

Another stormer goes by the title 'A Bag Of Cats' which sees Sharon, her sister Mary, Winnie Horan and Gerry O'Connor kicking off a reel on their violins. Each one of the band members build upon it until this wall of sound one by one until the crescendo reaches Michael Flatley proportions. The camera pulls back to take a view from behind the audience for a while. The whole place is bouncing.

All members of the band have been mentioned except for one person. Nobody seems to notice him, yet if he wasn't doing his job, there would be no-one to drive the whole thing along. He's been in Riverdance, he's featured on Juliet Turner's Live Album, he's appeared with Eleanor McEvoy & the RTE Concert Orchestra at Dublin's NCH. He's Bass Guitarist , Paul Moore.

As for the guests...... well, compere/MC is Jon Kenny who does a bit of stand-up comic stuff and sings a couple of songs. He's no mean singer either, sort of a cross between Johnny Cash and Meatloaf.
As for the real singers, Roesy is the first to be heard. As well as being vocally gifted he does a bit of painting too. He could pay off the mortgage, whichever carreer path he choses.
The Brennan Sisters ( another clan !) are definitely worth keeping an eye (and ear) open for in 2007. I've heard, from a reliable source, that they could be releasing their debut CD later this year.
Damien Dempsey is Dublin's answer to Billy Bragg. I've No Alibi is a song about his opinion on these boy bands and the like. I share his point of view completely. There's no point in arguing with him anyway - you should see the size of him !
Declan O'Rourke is another classy singer. Galileo has even been publicly endorsed by Paul Weller.
Dessie O'Halloran first appeared on Sharon's Diamond Mountain Sessions album. Everybody loves him.
I first heard about Mundy early last year when Mike Moloney played 'July' on Ocean FM - it's already an anthem.
If there are CDs available by any of the above, I'm on the look out for them.

The show draws to a close with a 3-song encore which sees the entire cast on stage. My 2006 Summer holidays were taken in Ireland. It appears that I missed this show by just a couple of weeks......If only I'd have known about it earlier.

I might have been a bit naughty, playing this DVD before Christmas. Santa, however, didn't appear to be too upset because he left me the double CD on Christmas Day !

Watch RTE's Late Late Show - Ring of Fire