Eleanor Shanley,
Eleanor Shanley
(Celtic Note, 2003)

If you were to buy one great album for one great line in one great song, I would heartily recommend this CD. The line "the piers and their bellows can go home and blow the fire" from "Bantry Girl's Lament" is my favourite line in any song.

But this CD is more than just one great line; it is a tour de force of fantastic music performed by an outstanding talent with excellent collaborations.

Eleanor Shanley is one of the most underrated singers, not just on the Irish scene but also the world stage. Her clear strong voice is unmistakeable and her interpretation of songs from classic to contemporary is unparalleled. From her days with De Danaan through duets with Ronnie Drew to her solo work, the hallmark has been quality and respect for the work. Yes, like so many of our greatest solo performers she performed with Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn in that top-class group. Thankfully the joint work has not ended as both of these appear on this album and Alec produced it.

The "friends" included on the 13 tracks reads like a who's who or dream team of contemporary music.

Eleanor opens alongside gravel-voiced Dubliner Ronnie Drew on the lovely song "A Couple More Years," a Shel Silverstein song that sounds ideally suited to both singers. Eddie Reader joins her for a fantastic rendition of one of our loveliest ballads, "Bantry Girl's Lament."

Johnny Duhan may not be particularly well known beyond the Emerald Isle but his great songwriting talent deserves a much wider audience. This is shown in his duet on his composition "My Gravity." Dessie O'Halloran has as distinctive a voice as Ronnie Drew, and again the mature, unsophisticated vocals complement Eleanor's well.

Other tracks find Shanley accompanied by Geraldine King, Ray Lynam, Dolores Keane, Sharon Shannon, Christie Hennessey and Charlie McGettigan. The tracks range from McGettigan's own song "If Anything Should Happen to You" to traditional fare like "Whistle Whistle Daughter."

There are a few solo tracks where Eleanor shows her strong individual style. My favourite of these is "The Summer of My Dreams," followed closely by Stephen Foster's classic "Beautiful Dreamer."

The album ends in an explosion of sound with "Hard Times." This is a seven-minute, live performance from her days with De Danaan, and Harlem Gospel Singers Ivan Leppar and Rosalind Browne join them. From this combination you get a great old song transformed into something fantastic and new, which you never want to end. The performers seem to agree, so don't switch off when you think the song is over.

Eleanor Shanley has produced an album with a rake of potential single hits and any radio station neglecting it is doing a serious disservice to its listeners.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 3 July 2004