Sharon Shannon
Spellbound: The Best of Sharon Shannon
Green Linnet (

One of the lucky accidents of a trip to Ireland several years ago, was my impulse purchase of a CD by a accordionist whose name I had never heard: Sharon Shannon. That self-titled album, her first, remains one of my favorite discs and I've happily followed her subsequent building of a successful career.

This collection shows why Shannon has attracted such attention from Irish traditional music fans. The disc shows her at her fleet-fingered best, but also demonstrates her creative impulse to gently nudge the borders of what a traditional Irish instrumentalist can do. Along with sets of jigs and reels, Shannon and Co. tickle out Cajun, French Canadian and even reggae music. Though her accordion is the lead instrument in most songs, she is also a generous bandleader, letting others shine as soloists and there is a palpable sense of joy as the assembled play off each other. Shannon loves, as she has said, 'to chase the tunes down all night,' but she also manages to imbue the songs with feeling. While the songs are mostly upbeat, Shannon also slows down for several wistful tunes that move with a poignant sway. - Marty Lipp