Sharon Shannon – Sacred Earth

Album Review | Celtic Collections | Review by Damian Liptrot | Stars: 4/5

Like a football manager with unlimited funds, Sharon Shannon has reached the point at which she can attract the best players that she wants, assembling a team of Champions League proportions. As could be expected with such talent on display, they are solid at the back, creative in midfield and adventurous upfront, with all the individuals matching the musical skills of their leader. Building from a solid base in traditional Irish tunes, the immaculately assembled squad are capable of shifting shape, style and tempo apparently at will, with flashes of instrumental brilliance coming and going as the tunes develop. Although a dominant theme is the newly found African influence, a quick glance through the list of players will confirm that this is truly world music, with every continent being represented. It’s just like listening to Brazil, except it’s much, much more than that. When the voice arrives in track three, “The Machine”, there are still surprises to be had as the powerful state of the globe lyrics are delivered, not only in a traditional style but with elements of both rap and chant and then, to illustrate the role of voice, suddenly shifts to French, whilst continuing the message of concern. All this is delivered with shifting instrumental patterns but a beat so insistent that it produced a massive percussive attack on the steering wheel whilst stationary and an immediate transfer to the MP3 jogging playlist back at HQ. It comes as no surprise to find out that the original inspiration for the track came from collaborative work in New Mexico – I wouldn’t have expected anything less. To return to a football analogy, there are those whose role it is to analyse a game, identifying possession rates, assists, tackles and dribbles completed. If I watch football, I look to enjoy the ebb, the flow and the unexpected excitement, so I shall leave analysis of particular musical styles, instruments and individual contributions to people better qualified and with a different outlook. There is, of course, an informative booklet. Whilst there is a significant amount of inventiveness and fusion throughout, a good player knows when the ball needs to be placed firmly into Row Z and so there are also more traditionally focussed tracks but then again, there is the odd diversion into the almost traditional with a good time, southern boogie with Cajun inflections but this is balanced out elsewhere with essence of Breton prog rock. Sacred Earth, a world of ideas, take a trip around it.