Sharon Shannon with Seckou Keita and S.O.N
Main Auditorium 22 January, 2019
From Celtic Connections Festival 17 Jan to 3 Feb 2019
By KIRSTEN FORSYTH
Sharon Shannon has achieved global acclaim as an accordionist and multi-instrumentalist, and it was easy to see why at this excellent gig.
While her playing reflects her County Clare roots, she creatively incorporates Reggae, Blues, and African styles into her music.
Shannon’s band consisted of Jim Murray on acoustic guitar, Jack Maher on electric guitar/vocals, and Sean Reagan on fiddle, percussion and beatboxing – yes, you read that right. In several songs, it provided an excellent backing rhythm, especially during the opener, ‘Rusheen Bay’ along with Maher’s subtle reggae rhythm on electric guitar.
Irish singer-songwriter, Susan O’Neill, or S.O.N. was the first guest and while ‘Loch Lomond’ and ‘Jolene’ have been covered many times, her unique, bluesy voice gave a fresh take on these classics.
Senegalese musician, Seckou Keita also delighted the audience with his musicality on the Kora, djembe, and the Tama. The Kora is a West African instrument related to the lute and harp and as he played his first piece, ‘Space’, he displayed extraordinary skill and rhythm. The wonderfully intricate ‘Sea Shepherd’, which features on Shannon’s ‘Sacred World’ album, in which Keita was a guest artist, proved a treat.
O’Neill returned with a trumpet on ‘Cavan Potholes’, and the electric guitar with djembe backing gave the tune a fantastic groove.
‘James Brown’s March’, with wonderful backing from Keita’s djembe, quickly changed to an entertaining beatboxing/djembe rhythm-off between Reagan and Keita. After a slightly unorthodox link to ‘Smoke on the Water’, Shannon finished with a fantastic arrangement of the French-Canadian tune, ‘Mouth of the Toubique’ and received a standing ovation.
Having been on the original recording of ‘Galway Girl’ with Steve Earle in 2000, it was fitting for Shannon to end the night with this rouser that had the audience dancing.
Support act, Usher’s Island, featured musicians from two generations of the Irish music scene, and it was truly special to see renowned artists such as Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Paddy Glackin, Michael McGoldrick and John Doyle together.
Having debuted at Celtic Connections 2015, they returned with a superb variety of traditional material from their self-titled 2017 album.