Cover Story: (57) Hit the Road Jack. Ray Charles, yes. Richard Anthony's French version, Fiche le Camp? Presque jamais!
Anne Byrne RIP: a gem of Irish music, 'my immensely talented mother'

Song of the Day Revisited: Sharon Shannon/ Dessie O'Halloran ... Say You Love Me


Jan 2021 update

I did not know until I checked online while looking at this post and thinking it might fit into my current project (drawing attention to timeless items from Salut Live's extensive archives) that its central character, Dessie O'Halloran, was no longer with us.  RIP a rough diamond of Irish music ...

This, long before Dessie died, was published as pure fun. Back then, in 2014, it was the latest instalment in a retro series Song of the Day Revisited.
I have always loved Sharon Shannon's wonderful musicianship and spirit of adventure. Let my 2011 words, as subsequently updated, describe my choice of this song and its singer for the original series ...


"I could listen to that girl all night."

Those words, or similar, were spoken to me by a woman sitting next to me in a Belfast bar in the mid-1990s, and the conversation probably forces itself back into my mind about as often as I dream that I have started smoking decades after I stopped.

Sharon Shannon - look for the seated musician with ear-to-ear smile - is indeed an artist whose accordion and fiddle-playing, and free-thinking choice of material, I could never tire of hearing.

But this is not a Song of the Day about Sharon. I could devote a Tune of the Day series to her work and not run out of material for a month or more. But one of her many gifts is an ability to assemble exceptional musicians, from any genre, in the cause of inventive, magical music.

Musical collaboration has become an essential part of the Sharon Shannon story.

And on the occasion captured in this YouTube clip, she hit the artistic jackpot.

Dessie O’Halloran, a native of Inishbofin, a few miles off the coast of Connemara, managed to escape my notice for the first 60 or 65 years of his life (he was 70 when the series ran but sadly died in 2019 aged 79).

My ignorance was, in itself, no great surprise. Dessie had a broken, strangled voice that, in all honesty, you'd think only a close relative could love.

Except that the close relative has been joined by countless other admirers, among them at least one of the old codgers who write all that appears at Salut! Live.

Say You Love Me, which members of the Mudcat folk forum suggest started life as a bluegrass song, I've Waited As Long As I Can, written by the late Hylo Brown, brought O'Halloran Irish chart succes in 2001.

It may seem odd to follow the purity of Joan Baez - [whose item in this series immediately preceded Sharon and Dessie - Ed] - with the ramshackle vocals on which O'Halloran may well hold some sort of trademark.

But for the song and its context, that voice is as near to being the perfect match as you will find outside the pages of Mills & Boon.

"You hear that song and you imagine a wizened old man in an pub somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, sipping his pints of stout, rolling his own fags and occasionally breaking into the session to sing the songs he knows," a friend said. And I love it.

Maybe a whole concert of Dessie's voice would be stretching it a bit far, but I am totally hooked on the song and chorus, voice, mannerisms and the sheer fun value.

Look at Sharon and the other musicians. Look at the faces of audience members. Everyone is having a fabulous time, whatever they may make of the closing burst of the Benny Hill Show theme. Enjoy, or tell me why you didn't.

Thinking now about Dessie's death - pre-Covid absences from the UK tended to take me out of the loop - I feel comfortable about the way I describe his singing.

His friend and frequent musical collaborator Damien Dempsey put it better than I could:

He’d a rough oul haggard voice from decades on building sites through the London winters and heavy drinking with very little sustenance, but I watched audiences from the wings when he sang and played his fiddle,” he said.

A smile rose on their faces like the sunrise, and they’d start to dance, and a warmth would glow and emanate across whole crowd, and you’d feel a warmth within. He had a great gift of putting people on a good vibration, which is a great gift to the world


Sharon shannon
* All music featured at Salut! Live can be bought at the sites Amazon link. is were to go for a copy of Diamond Mountain Sessions, one of the albums on which Sharon and Dessie can be heard performing Say You Love Me, and you can navigate from there to find other items you may wish to purchase.


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