The Summer Arts Weekend program says that Sharon Shannon has “made the much-maligned accordion ‘cool’” in her home country of Ireland. It’s easy to see why. (Though I personally have always been rather fond of the ol’ squeezebox.)
Shannon says she grew up in a family where her parents “were absolutely mad for music and they were always playing music and dancing round the kitchen,” and it wasn’t long before she and her brother and two sisters were playing along.
She’s carried on the tradition, playing concerts with such gleeful enthusiasm and abandon that any performance seems a celebration, a kind of Celtic hootenanny (if that’s not an appalling mashing of cultures) that has everyone singing and grinning and doing a little jig. Even just watching videos, the joy is infectious.
But this also isn’t the stuff of St. Paddy’s Day parties and Temple Bar tourist traps. It’s much more alive, and less pigeonholed. Her sound is unmistakably Irish, but not cliché. Songs like “Galway Girl,” written with Steve Earle in 2000, manage to sound as homey and familiar as traditional fare, but also somehow fresh.
Shannon’s also known for her wide-ranging collaborations with both Irish and non-Irish folk including Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Jackson Browne, John Prine, Steve Earle, The Chieftains, The Waterboys, Willie Nelson, Nigel Kennedy, Alison Krauss, and Shane MacGowan.
At Summer Arts Weekend, Sharon Shannon will perform on the Copley Plaza Main Stage at 2:45 on Saturday, following Dan Zanes and Friends and the Harney Academy of Irish Dance. I think it’s great scheduling–I can’t imagine anyone being able to keep their seat.